Glitzy out­fits and wild moves, these grannies prove that age is just a num­ber, and the fu­ture is what you make of it.

Marie Claire (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Old age can’t stop these oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans from do­ing what they want – cheer­lead­ing!

If you’ve ever held the thought that you are too old to learn some­thing new or at­tempt some­thing dif­fer­ent – you need to take a page out of these ladies’ books.

Based in Tokyo, Ja­pan Pom Pom is a team of se­nior cheer­lead­ers who’ve all taken up the sport for var­i­ous rea­sons: from us­ing cheer­lead­ing as an ex­cuse to meet like-minded friends, to us­ing it as a cop­ing mech­a­nism to deal with a rocky mar­riage.

The squad was founded by oc­ta­gene­r­ian Fu­mie Takino in 1996. Self-pro­claimed to have been em­bold­ened by age and ex­pe­ri­ence, she at­tempted the feat which she would not have oth­er­wise been able to brave in her youth.

Not open to just any­one – you have to be at least 55 years old in or­der to qual­ify. The av­er­age age in the 30-mem­ber cheer­lead­ing squad is 70 years old, with mem­bers rang­ing from 65 to 85 years old. Far from be­ing a group for char­ity case grannies, these women are sim­ply tak­ing ad­van­tage of their re­tire­ment years to do some­thing they would not have at­tempted in their ear­lier years.

Now 85 years old, Takino trains with her squad weekly at a lo­cal se­nior cen­tre – some­thing which they do not take lightly. Their dance rou­tines, though wild, are cal­cu­lated. Ja­pan Pom Pom mem­bers have a train­ing uni­form with their own de­signed logo, while their in­di­vid­ual cos­tumes are es­pe­cially sourced from the United States. Gig­gle as you might when these grannies strut on stage in their match­ing goldtrimmed miniskirts and glossy white knee-high boots, you will not be able to deny the skill and prac­tice that has gone into their per­for­mance – of which there are many.

Ja­pan Pom Pom per­forms through­out the year at var­i­ous venues and oc­ca­sions, rang­ing from sports and nurs­ing homes, to char­ity events. They fre­quently ap­pear on Ja­panese tele­vi­sion and have even man­aged to raise mil­lions of yen for char­ity af­ter the 2011 earth­quake. Just last year, they cel­e­brated their 20th an­niver­sary and their pop­u­lar­ity doesn’t seem to be wan­ing.

As one of the fastest age­ing so­ci­eties in the world, over a quar­ter of Ja­pan’s pop­u­la­tion is over the age of 65. To­day, the coun­try is fac­ing un­prece­dented so­cial and eco­nomic chal­lenges which are at the cen­tre of pub­lic de­bate. While rais­ing aware­ness on age­ing and fundrais­ing for char­i­ties are the squad’s main mis­sions, keep­ing fit and hav­ing fun is also one of the rea­sons why the ladies get to­gether.

Cheer­lead­ing gives the ladies an ex­cuse to wear miniskirts and glit­ters that most peo­ple would con­sider in­ap­pro­pri­ate for their age. “As you grow older, your self-im­age does not age with you. You think your face is still the one you had when you were 30 years younger,” said Takino.

Se­nior cheer­lead­ers Ja­pan Pom Pom pose for a group photo in their per­for­mance cos­tumes, be­fore their weekly train­ing at an el­derly com­mu­nity cen­tre. Based in Tokyo and founded in 1996 by 81 year old Fu­mie Takino, JPP mem­bers are 65 to 83 years old....

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