Meet the Japanese cheerleaders with an average age of 70

These spirited Japanese ladies are members of Japan PomPom, a group of 28 cheerleaders in Japan ranging in age from 55 to their late 80’s.

Founded by 84-year-old leader Fumie Takino 20 years ago, the American sport has been gaining in popularity in Japan for the last 30 years, though more in schools and universities.

Why was Ms Takino inspired to take it up then?

A new lease on life

After the end of her marriage and travelling to the US for a master’s degree in gerontology, Ms Takino says she was ready for a change. Returning to Japan, she saw a professional cheerleading performance, complete with somersaults, backflips and human towers – “it blew my mind,” Ms Takino said.

She immediately got together a group of five friends and began practising their moves. Today, dressed in sparkly leotards and knee-high boots, the troupe meets weekly to rehearse, even analysing videos of themselves to improve.

While they avoid too much acrobatics, Ms Takino credits the sport with helping to keep her physically and mentally fit.

“Once you hit the age of 70, you have to admit it’s downhill.” she says. “We’ve come a long way in 20 years!” she adds.

Ageing with attitude

Japan is well-known for its long life expectancy – women can expect to live to 87 while the average for men is 80. However, many Japanese spend the last years of their lives in poor health, with the average “healthy” lifespan ten years less for both sexes.

While some of the members have left because of health issues or to care for ageing husbands, they have no problem finding new recruits.

One prospective member Shinko Kusajima, in her late sixties, said the troupe had given her the chance to meet new people: “When you get old, you keep losing friends, but you always have mates here to share a good time.”

You do have to be over 55 to join though.

Proof age is just a number?

Watch their ‘Dreamgirls’ performance at the United Spirit Association (USA) Nationals competition in Japan earlier this year here.

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A special thanks to our contributors

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Caroline Egan

DCM Media, agedcare101

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

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Ian Horswill

Journalist

Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

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Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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Jill Donaldson

Physiotherapist

Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

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Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

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Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.