On this week that marked one year since the first positive test of COVID-19 in Wake County, there's a story of hope that starts on the dance floor. Dozens of Triangle seniors are refusing to let the loneliness and isolation of quarantine get them down.
Brittany Mora and Courtney White co-founded Silver Shuffles Dance Company last year. It's aimed at seniors 55 years and up. Then, the pandemic hit. It could have crushed the business. Then, they found out just how much local seniors needed it.
"We started to realize that this was kind of bigger than a dance class," Mora said.
For the past year, the lives of the company's main customer base, seniors 55+ at active-living communities across the Triangle, have been transformed by the pandemic. These older at-risk residents who'd grown used to filling their days and social calendars with book clubs and painting classes suddenly faced a new danger: loneliness and isolation.
"A lot of those couples don't have family around. They've moved to this area from another state. And now all those activities are gone," Mora said.
White added, "So the fact that Brittany and I were able to continue teaching throughout this whole thing really gave a lifeline to them to get through the pandemic."
They figured out a way to dance and do it safely: either outside, socially distanced, or on Zoom.
Some of the seniors say they didn't just want to dance -- they needed to.
"They said, 'the weather is wonderful. We've got space. It's safe. Do you feel comfortable coming here?' And I was like, absolutely! Now, don't you get too close to me!" Mora said with a smile describing her efforts to spread joy without risking spreading viruses.
Julie Simmons, a resident Creekside at Bethpage, the active-living senior community in Durham, credits her tap dance class with Mora and White with giving her the resiliency to get through a year dominated by COVID.
"We've performed several times during the pandemic. And it really, in my opinion, changed everything for us," Simmons said. "Because we were able to keep going."
White said, "They say thank-you so much. We appreciate you. We don't know what we do without our dance."
Finding a cure for COVID isolation -- on the dance floor.