When Elyria resident Pat Smith saw her 100-year-old father, Howard, tap dancing like he did when he was younger, it was her happiest moment of 2020. She credits Melissa Renner of Westlake for making that happen.
Renner, owner of Active for Life Fitness, designed a pair of shoe covers that give elderly and disabled people a chance to dance again. The shoes allow the user to easily slip them on and off..
“I created a tap-dancing program that would help the elderly community and disabled stay active in body and mind,” said Renner, 36. “To help with that, I created a tap shoe that would allow people to dance without struggling to put them on.”
Active for Life Fitness specializes in helping the elderly community lead active lives, Renner said.
The shoe covers look like black galoshes and are made of silicone with a zipper on top of them. They come in sizes medium, large and extra large and can expand to fit more than one shoe shape, Renner said.
Each pair goes for $50 and is made to order. Renner also sells a board to tap the shoes on carpet for $100. Both can be purchased on Renner’s website, activeforlifefitness.com. So far, she’s sold 30 pairs of shoes.
“I also plan to film a video that people can watch and dance to at home,” she said. The video will feature a variety of dances and will be available this spring, she added.
Smith, 73, and her father have only been using the covers for a short time, but she believes they can help a lot of people.
“The first time I saw him dance, I cried,” she said. “This lets them get exercise and work their minds by doing something they loved when they were younger.”
Caroline Schaffer, 90, a resident of The Normandy Senior Living in Rocky River, at first didn’t believe Renner designed something that would allow her to dance. She was happy to be proven wrong when she tried the shoes on for the first time.
“It’s a lot of fun and great exercise for the legs,” she said. “As a senior living in an apartment complex where everything is done for us, it’s easy to get into the habit of sitting around. These shoes allow us to get up and get moving.”
Renner developed the idea while leading a dance class in 2019. She had help from her husband, Chris, who tore his Achilles tendon and needed to wear a cast. After finishing a cover, she’d fit it over his cast to see if it fit any size of footwear, she said.
Dancing regularly reduces joint pain and stiffness. It also improves how the mind functions. Aging adults who danced regularly had a 76% reduced risk for dementia, according to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Renner hopes that her invention will help people realize they can continue doing what they love regardless of age or ability.
“I don’t think we should ever stop engaging in our passion or halt things that create a spark in us,” she said. “No one should have to give up just because they can’t stand or struggle to get their shoes on or off.”
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