Skip to Content

A cheering squad made up of women over 55 aims to ‘Inspire Before We Expire,’ says 81-year-old member

Cheerleading squads are known for their energy and athleticism, and always add fun and excitement to any event. Most cheerleading groups have young members, so this Arizona cheer squad certainly stands out. Sun City Poms, which only recruits members who are over 55, has distinguished itself as a cheerleading squad that brings joy to seniors and audiences of all ages.

Sun City Poms is a real cheerleading team – members of the performing and marching squad have three-hour practices three days a week.

And even though all members are older than 55, they all love it. The cheerleading squad brings joy to seniors and being part of the group makes them more comfortable about getting older.

Established in 1979, the team comprises women aged over 55 who reside in Sun City, a retirement community in Arizona. This community of active seniors women are passionate about dancing, performing, and staying active, and prove that there is no age limit to doing what you love.

The team has become increasingly popular, and the members are known for their vibrant performances at parades, festivals, and events throughout the state.

Despite the demanding schedule though, the women remain committed to the team. This cheerleading squad brings joy to seniors by keeping members physically fit, building friendships, and fostering a sense of community.

Interested seniors don’t need a history of cheerleading or participation in marching bands to join the team. Sun City Poms president Peggy Parsons joined because of her passion for dancing.

Mary Zirbel, 81, has been twirling batons since grade school and gained most of her knowledge from a book. She has been with the group for 23 years now and joined after seeing the Sun City Poms at a parade.

At the time she thought, “That’s what I want to do.” Zirbel worked as a practical nurse in Green Bay for 40 years and relocated to Sun City after retiring, and this made her eligible for membership in the cheer squad.

Nowadays, the cheerleading squad that brings joy to seniors is a big part of Zirbel’s life. She shared, “My daughter had a great big birthday party for when I turned 80 back in Wisconsin.”

The bash took place at a little sports bar, and there was a lot of fun because Zirbel’s baton was there, too. “I was twirling all over the place,” she said.

The Sun City Poms currently has 30 members and a handful of trainees, who can join after completing a three-month class, learning two routines, and proving they have what it takes.

Parson said, “It’s kind of like an audition.” The members’ ages range from 58 to 90, and audience reaction shows that this cheerleading squad brings joy to seniors and its audiences alike. Parsons further said that the older the members, the louder the cheers from the crowd. She remarked, “Ginger, our 90-year-old, always gets the loudest.”

The shared hard work and camaraderie has made the team particularly close. Parsons said, “We requested that our teacher teach a routine called ‘We Are Family’ because we like each other so much.” They are not just team members; they have become more like sisters.

And it’s not surprising given the level of commitment demanded of the members. Their rigorous practice sessions are necessary to perform in about 40 to 50 events a year, including celebrations at parades, conventions, and memory care facilities.

On March 25, the group successfully held the “Celebrate the Poms” show, which drew a crowd of over 700 people. It even included a special number from “The Flops,” who count the husbands, friends, and lovers of the Poms as members.

Zirbel already has a lot of memories with the group and is ready to make more. She shared that in one event alone, she estimated that she walked about three miles.

She said, “It takes a lot of wind out of you. I do the zigzag. So I go out to one side, and then I go back, and I’m going forward all the same time. I don’t have a routine, I just do what I want to do when I twirl. And if the mood is right, I can do it, throw it up and catch it like you wouldn’t believe. And then again, there’s days that you just are off.”

Despite the tiring schedule and off days, Zirbel is not about to leave the team anytime soon. Zirbel said that she plans to continue twirling for as long as she can keep up. “Last year, I started thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I’m getting too old for this.’ But you know what? The people love it. The crowd loves it. And if I can do it, I still want to do it,” she said.

On the other hand, Parsons, a romance writer with ten published novels to her name, has set her eyes on a particular milestone.

She said, “I’m hoping to get to be 90 so that they can celebrate with me.” She added, “Sometimes I feel like I’m their mother because I’m one of the older ones. And that’s wonderful because I had three sons, I didn’t have any daughters, and now I can share all these pretty costumes and fun outfits.”

No matter what the future holds, this cheerleading squad continues to bring joy to seniors and live up to its goal: “We aspire to inspire before we expire.” Zirbel says her motto is “just help people out and have fun” because “life is too short.”

On the other hand, since becoming a member of the team, Parsons said that getting older doesn’t bother her anymore. “It makes me not mind because I think these are the best years of my life.”

As their new Instagram page says, these ladies are having the time of their lives while sharing positive aspects about aging. This cheerleading squad brings joy to seniors by performing with the spunk and energy of their youths, and bringing cheer to the people who get the chance to enjoy their routines.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.