Meanwhile in Florida…

By on February 19, 2014

Former Ephrata resident Elaine Vazquez teaches a Zumba class in Florida. The 69-year-old’s classes range in size from 15 students to 50, depending on the season.

Former Ephrata resident Elaine Vazquez teaches a Zumba class in Florida. The 69-year-old’s classes range in size from 15 students to 50, depending on the season.

Former Ephrata resident and teacher helps keep fellow retirees fit down south

Elaine Vazquez may be the perfect example of the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

She and husband, Frank, moved from the Ephrata area in 1994, but this 69-year-young woman may be remembered by a number of area residents. She taught in the Ephrata Area School District for 25 years, teaching in several elementary schools, as well as the middle school.

She’s still teaching, but in a slightly different way. The couple now live in The Villages, a retirement community that calls itself “Florida’s friendliest Retirement Hometown, and she teaches Zumba Gold and Zumba Gold Toning. Zumba Gold is a low impact version of Zumba.

“It’s virtually a city in itself with single homes, as well as patio homes and more spacious single homes. The Villages is growing by leaps and bounds, but although there are nearly 100,000 people here, there’s a sense of community. Every neighborhood has its own recreation center and there are also larger regional centers. So there’s a lot to do and the neat thing is that there’s no fee, even for golf,” Vazquez said.

The Villages is located north of Orlando, midway between Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. As of May 2012, there are 67 villages within the 32-square miles of land that comprise The Villages, which has its own hospital and a VA center.

Vazquez said that an assisted living facility and a skilled care center are being built. The community boasts three Town Squares that host entertainment, as well as The Villages Executive Golf Trail, which contains 30 9-hole golf courses and 10 championship courses, some of which have hosted professional golf tournaments. There’s also a plethora of other activities, including softball, arts and crafts and fitness opportunities.

“In addition to a road system, there are also paths for golf carts throughout The Villages. We mostly use the golf carts,” she explained.

After retiring from the Ephrata Area School District, she and her husband moved to Rogers, Ark., to be near her son and his family. After four years, they moved to Naples, Fla.

“We wanted warmer weather, and the beach was calling,” she said.

She taught school both in Rogers and in Naples. In Rogers, she taught fitness classes.

“I was into fitness, even in Ephrata,” she said.

In Ephrata, Vazquez taught an aerobics class two times a week for teachers and staff. She also taught at a now defunct fitness facility outside of Lancaster.

When she moved to The Villages in 2005, she taught a line dance class for three years and then took a Zumba class.

“Back then, Zumba was just getting started. I liked the class and decided to become licensed and went to Miami where I took a training course from Zumba founder Beto Perez,” she said.

She’s been a licensed Zumba instructor since 2009.

What she likes about Zumba is that it’s fun and that it combines dance moves (Latin, as well as hip hop and more traditional moves) with fitness and can be adapted for all fitness levels.

“You can really make it your own. I’m open to suggestions from people as to what they want to do,” she said.

Her class size ranges from 50 during the ‘season’ and 15 to 20 off-season. As an instructor at The Villages, she donates her time like other instructors and leaders of the more than 1,000 different clubs and programs. Villagers may participate in programs in their own neighborhood or in other parts of the community.

“I’ve been a teacher all my life, this is just a different audience. I enjoy teaching and this gives me a chance to combine that with fun and fitness,” Vazquez stressed. “I get a good feeling from teaching others and from the workout.”

In addition to the classes, she helps coordinate periodic Zumbathons to raise money for charities or a Zumba Social to collect food for an area food bank. A pre-Thanksgiving Zumba Social was held in November to collect food items for a food pantry.

“If we can have fun working out and do something that benefits others, that’s really great,” she said.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. If you have any questions or comments about this story, please send them to

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