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Seniors come together twice a week for instruction at the Gresham Senior Center

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Atchan Akagi leads her line dancing class twice a week at the Gresham Senior Center. Two times a week, Atchan Akagi shares her love of dancing with fellow seniors in the community.

The 80-year-old leads a line-dancing class at the Gresham Senior Center, which allows anyone 60 or older to join together for an afternoon of exercise and fun.

"I love dancing, so when I retired I wanted to bring music to the center," Akagi said.

Akagi has taught the class at the center for 15 years, tapping into a wealth of knowledge she's picked up through her life. She leads the group with infectious energy, chatting with the veterans and encouraging newcomers.

The class runs from 10 a.m. to noon, Monday and Friday at the center, 600 N.E. Eighth St. The small fee incorporated with taking the class goes back into the senior center, helping fund its many programs.

Akagi wanted to teach line dancing because it doesn't require participants to have a partner. She begins each session by walking through the steps, then playing music from her large personal collection.

"All are welcome to come and dance with us," she said.

The more than 20 members of the group are drawn to it for different reasons, though most point to the exercise and chance to socialize. One member, Louise Long, dances with the group before going next door to help do dishes at the Meals on Wheels Ambleside Center located in the same building.

The members of the class, many of whom have been going for many years, see themselves as one big family. They love to chat before dancing, and look out for one another. Every year they celebrate at a party hosted by Donna Culver, one of the dancers.

"We've bonded so much, we are all like sisters," Culver said.

A place where seniors can remain involved and active in the community, The Gresham Senior Center offers education, recreation, health and social programs to serve seniors and their families across East Multnomah County.

Classes and activities offered at the center in addition to line dancing include quilting, cribbage, crochet, tai chi, painting, writing, bingo and much more.

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