Health & Wellness

85-year-old veteran Arne Mayala takes up tap dancing, checking item off bucket list

Arne Mayala may be 85 years old, but he’s still got "the moves."

And now — after taking up tap dancing last month — the U.S. Navy veteran's got more moves than ever.

The lifelong fan of song-and-dance films like "Singing in the Rain" found his way to the dance floor somewhat by accident. After passing by Dance Tech Studios in Forest Lake, Minnesota, on the way to the accountant’s office, his wife, Carol Mayala, prodded him to sign up for a class.

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“When they first walked in, we thought maybe they were lost,” Robin Lind, the studio’s owner, told TODAY. “But when we heard this was on his bucket list, we said, ‘Wonderful! We can make that happen.”

Courtesy of Robin Lind
'It’s so inspiring to see joy it brings him,' said Robin Lind, the studio's owner.

Arne Mayala has since made the 40-mile weekly trip to channel his inner Fred Astaire. Lind, who has been videotaping Mayala’s progress each week, says he is steadily improving — and she’s enjoyed their interactions off the dance floor just as much.

“It’s been such a joy getting to know them,” said Lind. “Today I found out how Arne and Carol met … He spotted her across the room at a bar and asked her to dance. So they actually met dancing. No wonder she was excited for him to learn!”

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During Mayala's lessons, Lind often spends time with his wife, who expressed concern about being a burden on the studio. But Lind was quick to reassure her that she feels “blessed” to have them around.

“It’s so inspiring to see joy it brings him,” said Lind. “And at Arne’s age, it’s good for the brain and body to keep moving. We’ve had several special needs students in here … there are no limitations.”

Courtesy of Robin Lind
'You’re never too old to pursue your dreams,' said Lind, who created a dance program for senior citizens.

After seeing how Mayala’s story has resonated, Lind was inspired to start a dance program at her mother’s assisted living center. “They just want to move,” said Lind of the senior citizens in her ballet and tap classes. “They want to have fun. I was told it was the largest turnout the center had ever had at an event.”

She added, “If just one 85-year-old has this on bucket list, how many others are out there? I hope more studios will consider these programs. You’re never too old to pursue your dreams.”

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