Pasifika elders fight obesity and loneliness with Zumba

In the heart of Mangere, Auckland, a unique social event unfolds every weekday at noon. A hundred participants, mostly Pasifika elders, gather for an hour-long dance class, which started in 2013 as part of a health and wellness initiative to combat diabetes and reduce loneliness. The exercise class, free of charge and sponsored by the local board, is a Zumba class with a Pacific twist, boasting colorful attire and vibrant music.

The oldest member of the group is an 89-year-old woman from Niue Island who has been attending the classes for seven years. Lasini Kahou shared that the Zumba classes not only boost her spirits but also keep her fit and active. Kahou, who describes the classes as a better alternative to watching TV at home and making her husband angry, appreciates the opportunity to interact with new people daily.

The locale, Mangere-Ōtāhuhu, is known for having the largest population of Pacific people in Auckland. The classes not only cater to the Tongan community but also welcome participants of various Pacific Island descent, including Samoan, Cook Island, and Niuean. Kalolaine Tomu, who coordinates the classes, explained that the aim is to help these individuals stay active and socially engaged.

Tomu shared that the participants value the time together and look out for each other, as evident when the oldest participant, a 94-year-old man, needed a break. Tomu expressed her joy in witnessing the unity among all attendees, regardless of their Island origins, and how they find enjoyment in the Zumba classes.

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