If someone asked you to imagine a cheerleader in a sequined uniform dancing in unison with a squad of other women on a stage with adoring fans clapping in a crowd below, your mind probably isn’t picturing a great-grandmother of four.
Most likely you aren’t picturing the squad being 27 women aged between 61 and 90 years old either. When someone asks you to imagine a cheerleader, Rosemary Tiffany, 72, is not who you picture.
Rosemary is one of the nearly 40,000 residents of Sun City, Arizona, USA, an age-restricted '55 and older' community. She is also the social chair and the vice-president of the Sun City Poms, a cheerleading squad in her retirement town. The dance and marching teams practice 12 hours a week for the shows and parades they put on for the surrounding community. The community is still much the same as it was when developer Del Webb opened Sun City in the 1960s, the first place of its kind.
When the Sun City Poms started performing in 1972, they were the first group of their kind, a group of dancing and performing grannies. “I love music, I love dancing. I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s something I could never do growing up because my family were migrant field workers, we’d move season to season to different schools and therefore I could never join sports or music or anything. So when I retired I thought I wanna do something really different and this is as different as it gets,” Rosemary said.
Before retiring, Rosemary worked as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher in Washington state. She grew up as a second-language learner and struggled in school because of it. She is proud of her decades spent helping non-native speakers excel in school. She and her husband Jim, 78, also owned and published El Mundo, a Spanish language weekly newspaper in Washington state.
At 72 years old, Rosemary has one daughter, two grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and a full career in her rearview mirror. She now practices and rehearses with the Poms three days a week and she marches in a dozen parades and performs in 50 shows per season.
How does it feel to be 72?
"It feels good to be 72. When I was around 20 to 30 years old, I thought the ages of 60 and 70 were old. Seriously old. I guess when I was younger, they seemed old to me. It was like they stopped living and they stopped having fun and I thought that was sad. Currently I do not see people in their 70's as old. I don’t even see 80 as old. So far, my age hasn’t limited me from doing anything. I don’t see it as an age that holds me back at all."
What do you look forward to?
"I look forward to joining the ukulele club and to the stained glass and clay clubs in Sun City. I look forward to making my crafts. I do a lot of crafts. I have a show or sale once every November. Right now I feel like I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do and I feel like I want to do more of my crafts and hobbies."
What is your biggest concern?
"I don’t know if it’s a concern but I want to be able to stay healthy for as long as I’m alive. I guess what I mean is it’s not the quantity of years, it is the quality of life that I’m more concerned about. I come from a large family and most of my family is diabetic. That’s why nutrition and making sure I stay active is really important."