What will you be like when you turn 70? Katherine Shortlidge celebrated her 70th birthday with a vigorous, 45-minute bootcamp workout, the same one she does four days a week. She also swims, bikes, and runs triathlons. And twice a week she does what she loves most: practicing with the Calendar Girls Dance Team.
“Exercise, workouts and fitness training are great; but there needs to be more, especially as we get older,” Shortlidge said. “We all need friends to encourage us and a real purpose to motivate us.”
Does that sound familiar? Having a sense of purpose is an essential, yet sometimes elusive, element of a fulfilling life.
Calendar Girls become stars
Shortlidge thought that if she could put together a group of women, over the age of 50, and if they could learn dance routines and make their performances hip, energetic and sexy, they could attract enough attention to help smash the stereotypes of aging. She named the group, “Calendar Girls.”
The dance team’s first big break came when they were chosen to perform during NBA Development League games for the Fort Myers franchise.
“Here were these women, most over age 60, who had never been on a team, had never performed, and had never had the chance to be in the spotlight before,” Shortlidge said. “And the most amazing transformations began to take place. The glamour, recognition, and comradery started bringing out the best in us all.”
When the development league folded, the Calendar Girls did not. Shortlidge worked to find other bookings. They became community fixtures at fundraising events, delighting audiences wherever they performed.
“We’ve danced at retirement communities, assisted-living centers, country clubs, and even biker rallies,” Shortlidge said. “And we’re proud to say we’ve raised enough funds to provide over 25 dogs to disabled U.S. veterans through Southeastern Guide Dogs. And all along the way, we are showing examples of positive aging, fitness, and community service. That’s what we’re all about.”
While they danced their way into the hearts of the community, the 30-member squad had tons of fun. They are known for their extravagant costumes, which have included showgirls, hippies, Hawaiian princesses, zombies and Marilyn Monroe lookalikes.
Fountain of Youth
“We are all different shapes, sizes and abilities, yet people think we’re much younger than we are,” said CJ Johnson, 65. “We’ve discovered that the fountain of youth is filled with attitude, energy and confidence.”
Donna Allio, 61, said, “Age doesn’t matter. What defines us is how we feel, what we do for our community, how we give back. The Calendar Girls isn’t just a dance squad, it is a sisterhood where we believe in making a difference, and we believe in each other.”
And as for the birthday girl, Shortlidge said, “So, yes, I’m turning 70, and I love it. I feel good. I have great friends, and I have a purpose. Who knew life at this age could be so great?”