Kay Amundsen, 87, knows exactly why she likes the new taiko drumming class at Ethel M. Hart Senior Center in midtown Sacramento: She gets out all her frustrations banging on the big Japanese drums.
"In here, you get to go, Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham!" said Amundsen, a retired employment agency owner who lives in east Sacramento.
Taiko classes for older adults have long been popular in Japan, not surprisingly, and have already gained a following in senior centers in the Bay Area. In Sacramento, the Asian Community Center also offers taiko for seniors.
The concept is so hot that the Hart class, which meets every Wednesday afternoon, is already full.
The reason for the appeal is simple, said the Hart center's director, Rosanne Bernardy.
"It's not only for the physicality, but also for the concentration needed for the drumming," she said. "It's an ideal activity for older people wanting to keep their brains in shape and their bodies strong."
Also, seniors like Amundsen get to pound the daylights out of the drums and they like that.
"I go home and hit my cutting board to practice the drumming patterns," she said.
The class is taught by Sacramento Taiko Dan veteran Misa Takagi, who also coordinates the city's Triple R adult day program in Greenhaven.
Graceful and lively, she counted off a beat, and a dozen seniors standing in a circle of taiko drums raised their drumsticks high. They started banging out the rhythm. The huge sound went on and on as Takagi had the class repeat the pattern again and again.
"The resonance just goes through you when you're hitting the drum," said Elizabeth Xiu Wong, a 58-year-old dental hygienist who rushed to class from work.
She was inspired to sign up for class because her grown daughter plays taiko.
"She says it's good for your spirit," she said. "And now we have something else in common."
Many in the taiko class, like Shirley Wong and Jim Craig, have long attended the Hart center's yoga classes, as well.
"Jim is at a disadvantage in taiko because he's so tall and the drums are so low," said Wong, 63, a retired administrative analyst with the city.
"I wake up with a sore back every Thursday morning from this," said Craig, 64, who worked in the city accounting office.
"You need to bend your knees more," Wong replied. "Or I could hold the drum up for you."
Karen Columbia, a 71-year-old retired social worker, liked the idea of taiko because she wanted to try something new.
"And the teacher is absolutely charming," Columbia said. "I love her. She's so adorable."
Takagi pounded out a new beat on a drum, smiling around the circle of students, who struggled hard to replicate the pattern.
"Relax," Takagi said. "Just feel the beat. Maybe don't think about it. Just do it."
And they did, more or less in unison, as they continued learning the basics of taiko.
"Anything musical, I like," said Sharon Gile, 71. "We do get our aggression out in this class, I must say. It's very rejuvenating and very strenuous.
"And it makes you concentrate, so you can remember. This is all good. It's all the things that enhance health and memory."