Naples Senior Center members move to beat of a drum


Liz Freeman


Naples Daily News
Updated 8:00 AM EST Nov 26, 2019

Martha Davis arrives early for drum circle at Naples Senior Center, a giveaway she’s fond of the activity.

“It just makes you feel happy,” Davis, 82, said. “I know it’s healthy for us. (Afterward) I’m full of energy I didn’t have before.”

The 45-minute drum circle sessions began earlier this year as an experiment to see if it held any appeal to members. The center offers 40 different programs each week to keep seniors engaged and active.

Scheduled initially for once a month, attendance at the drum circle quickly mushroomed. The center’s purchase of eight drums didn’t suffice.

Now drum circle is twice a month. The center has purchased a dozen drums and counting.

Jim Sernovitz, 74, is a volunteer who leads drum circle. He wasn’t surprised how quickly it became popular with the seniors.

Drum instructor Jim Sernovitz, center, leads the drum circle, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

“It helps everybody. With drums, you really don’t have to know a lot about music. In a group, it is so loud if you make a mistake, nobody knows.”

The drumming provides exercise through the hand movement, and the vibration can be a stress reliever.

“You feel good when you are done,” he said.

Jackie Faffer, the center’s president and CEO, said drum circle provides members with a connection to others and a sense of interpersonal support.

“This epitomizes the purpose of Naples Senior Center,” she said. “We are all about connecting, energizing and supporting all who participate in our programs. And, when you see the smiles on the faces of our drummers, you know we are also all about having a good time, too.”

Mary-Rina Longo, left, Terry Butts and Carolyn Mulligan participate in a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

Sernovitz started a recent session with some warm up drumming before picking up the tempo. Most of the participants in a recent session were women, except for Art Sturm, 86. He started coming to drum circle three months ago.

“It kind of relaxes me,” Sturm said, adding that he likes it when Sernovitz picks up the pace.

Drum circle events are plentiful in Southwest Florida, with gatherings held in Cambier Park in Naples, at Shangri-La Springs in Bonita Springs and in Centennial Park in Fort Myers, according to a public Facebook page, Fort Myers Drum Circle.

Participants play drums in a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

The Naples center purchased djembe drums, which hail from West Africa. The drum traditionally is carved from a single piece of African hardwood with animal skin as the drumhead, according to a detailed history on the website, drumconnection.com, and is affiliated with a drum circle program in Boston.

Numerous websites refer to health benefits of drum circles as a way to address stress, provide a sense of belonging and a connection to others. Drumming is a way to decrease anxiety and depression, and can improve motor skills and energy.

Terry Butts plays her drum during a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

For Terry Butts, 89, the drum circle at the senior center doesn’t help with her essential tremor, a neurological condition that causes involuntary shaking, but it makes her feel good.

“I love it,” she said. “I like the rhythm. I like the camaraderie.”

The drum circle helps her forget that she’s got essential tremor.

 “I don’t think about it, and the people here are nice,” she said.

Mary-Rina Longo participates in a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

Naples Senior Center is located at 5025 Castello Drive.

For more information, go to naplesseniorcenter.org or call 239-325-4444.



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