Age is Just a Number: The Sun City Poms aspire to inspire

The Sun City Poms are cheerleaders ages 61 to 90 who make more than 50 appearances a year. Founded in 1979, the cheerleading-squad-turned-choreographed-dance-team’s motto is “We aspire to inspire before we expire,” and its activities help with age-related problems like memory launce and diminished energy, according to board President Peggy Parsons, second from right and wearing blue/white. (James Patrick/Contributor)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When Peggy Parsons was looking to move to Arizona from Santa Fe, she had her eye on the West Valley.

After a couple false starts, she found her place in Sun City — and it was the perfect match. There, she discovered the Sun City Poms, cheerleaders ages 61 to 90 who make more than 50 appearances a year at sporting events, high schools, assisted living facilities, parades and fundraisers. 

“The exercise was the biggest reason why I joined,” says Parsons, who is now the group’s president.  

“I like to march and dance. But the benefit now is we’re like sisters. We’re friends. We do a lot of things together, and we just love each other. It’s a great group.”

The performing Poms entertain at events like conventions, sporting events, community meetings, fundraisers, and retirement living centers and care facilities.

Meanwhile, the marching Poms attend parades, including the nationally televised Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix. They perform a marching routine repeatedly throughout a parade route ranging from 1.5 miles to 3 miles.

Marchers, who need to master two to three routines, typically practice weekly. Performers rehearse twice a week to learn 10 or more routines.

The Sun City Poms was founded in 1979 as a cheerleading squad for the Sun City Saints, a women’s softball team. They evolved from a cheerleading squad to a choreographed dance team. 

Since then, they have appeared in commercials for Advil and TV shows like “Today Show,” “The List” and “Inside Edition.” They were the subject of the feature film “Poms,” starring Diane Keaton. It tells the story of a group of women who form a cheerleading squad at their retirement community, proving they’re never too old to “bring it.”

The Sun City Poms are world renowned, having been featured in documentaries and media in Ireland, Germany, Australia, England, France, Japan, China and the Netherlands. They were featured in the BBC World documentary “100 Women” in December 2016.

The team performs and marches around the Valley primarily. 

“What sets us apart from other dance troupes is our age, our acrobatics and our ability to perform dance routines continuously, for over 2 miles in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, the Fiesta Bowl Parade and the Wickenburg Gold Rush Days Parade,” says Sharon Word, a Poms member. 

They call themselves “ambassadors” who defy the stereotypes of “senior citizens.” The women are former teachers, secretaries, business executives, engineers, homemakers and prison guards. 

Their routines feature “Uptown Funk” and a military tribute to all branches.

The Sun City Poms’ motto is “We aspire to inspire before we expire.”

“Ability is what you are capable of doing,” Parsons says. “Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

The Sun City Poms’ activities help with age-related problems like memory loss and diminished energy, Parsons says. Prospective members need not have experience either. 

“The Poms focus not only our own health, but we provide examples and encouragement when we perform,” Word says. 

She’s a longtime advocate of this, as she’s competed in the Miss Senior Colorado and Wyoming competitions. 

“I’m not a workout girl,” Word says. “This was perfect for me. We’re all volunteers. We’re showing other people that you can do this at any age. If you don’t move it, you lose it.”

Sun City Poms

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25

WHERE: Sundial Auditorium, 14801 N. 103rd Avenue, Sun City

COST: Free; donations welcome