Andrea Hancock is all about spreading joy – whether it’s through her work as a cabaret style entertainer known as “Seniorita Sunshine” or at her Senior Planet classes (Andrea leads the Barre Class (Tuesdays and Thursday from 3-4pm EDT) and Creative Creations (Tuesdays from 5-6pm EDT).
We caught up with Andrea to talk about her work and how at the age of 60, she embarked on a new adventure: she became a bat mitzvah.
What is your favorite part about being a Senior Planet trainer?
Learning about my participants, watching them make friends in my classes and developing friendships of my own with all of them.
You work on the Senior Planet Hotline as well as leading Creative Creations and the Barre exercise class. Why are these both great activities for older adults to take part in virtually?
There are so many benefits to both activities! Barre is a great way to create long, lean muscles, improve balance and flexibility, get a great sweat and have fun doing it!
And as far as Creative Creations, the idea is to create for the sheer joy of creating and sharing that joy with others. In our group many of the participants donate their creations to those less fortunate than themselves. We have an artisan creating useful handmade key holders out of hair scrunchies for residents of an Assisted Living community. Another artisan creates beautiful pillowcases for children in hospitals. They all blow me away at every session!
You’re doing something pretty special – you’re becoming a Bat Mitzvah – something traditionally done at age 13. What has that journey been like?
I grew up a “food jew.” Knowing which foods to eat on each holiday. I didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah at 13, like many girls. When I moved to Kauai as a young adult I longed for a family that wasn’t 5000 miles away. In seeking community, I found the lay-led Jewish community of Kauai where I discovered the joy of Judaism! I’ve been a seeker ever since.
I’ve worshipped at my current synagogue for 18 years now and as I approached my 60th birthday I knew this was the year! I don’t view becoming a Bat Mitzvah as a finish line, rather a portal to what’s next for me.
How are you preparing to take part in this ceremony?
There was a lot of preparation, but one part was having to write my D’var Torah which essentially means taking text from a gazillion years ago and making it relevant to life today.
“We put arbitrary limits on ourselves – I’m too old for this, I can’t do that – and my message is that you can always still change.”
In my Torah portion Lech Lecha, Abraham was 99 years old when God spoke to him, saying “you’re going to be the father of nations.” When I read it, I was like yes! Right on! Whether you take it literally or not – the point to me is that you’re never too old to take on new challenges.
We put arbitrary limits on ourselves – I’m too old for this, I can’t do that – and my message is it’s never too late to try new things. We can always learn and grow. This portal I’m about to walk through, it’s another chapter. It’s not like I become a Bat Mitzvah and then I’m done. I’m so not done. Abraham was 99, perhaps he thought he was “done.” But, no, God said it’s time for Abraham to step up and become the leader he was always meant to be.
What does Aging with Attitude mean to you?
It means that I’m not done yet!
Andrea has just recently achieved her goal of becoming a Bat Mitzvah. She’d like to share the magical and meaningful feelings of that special day: “When I looked out into the congregation, I was overcome by all the love I felt reflected back at me. My spiritual family was there to support me and to share in my joy! Their presence compounded the joy a hundredfold. In life, there are no extras. To me, this is the essence of community.”
Is there a trainer you think deserves a Meet the Trainer spotlight? Let us know in the comments!
Double Your Impact
Want to support the continuation of free, community-building programs like Creative Creations and Barre? Until November 30, in honor of Giving Tuesday, AARP and UnitedHealthcare will MATCH your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $300,000. Click here to give!
Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she is a contributing writer for this site.