Posted on Apr 15, 2009, 6 p.m.
By gary clark
A study has found that social dancing offers older adults opportunities to participate in exercise they enjoy and to cultivate social interaction that helps keep them both physically and mentally fit. The study also found that social dancing helps prevent illness and promotes healthy aging.
Jonathan Skinner, Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the School of History and Anthropology at Queen's University Belfast, participated in a transatlantic study on social dancing produced for the Changing Aging Partnership (CAP). The study involved older people throughout Northern Ireland, Blackpool and Sacramento in the United States. Through his research, he found numerous social, mental and physical benefits. His findings also suggest that social dancing helps prevent illness and can help seniors counteract the effects of aging. "I have found that social dancing leads to a continued engagement with life - past, present, and future - and holds the promise for successful ageing," says Dr. Skinner. "It contributes to the longevity of the dancers, giving them something to enjoy and focus upon - to live for. And it alleviates social isolation and quite literally helps take away the aches and pains associated with older age."
Participants in the study said that they looked forward to their dance sessions because they gave them something to enjoy and a chance to socialize with others. One study participant, Sarah, says that she has no doubt that social dancing offers many health benefits, including improving her agility. "My daughters brought me down to the ice rink. I have to say, after years of dancing on a Ballroom floor, I was very impressed and skating has great flow and speed. I've been doing it for 12 years now. We do the rumba, quickstep, foxtrot and tango. My instructor even wanted me to compete. My friends have commented that my energy is overwhelming, ‘what's the secret?' they ask, and I just say ‘keep dancing'."
According to Dr. Skinner, social dancing can bring people from different communities together. As he notes, parts of the study took place in Northern Ireland, where tension among neighborhoods is still an issue. Social dancing gives people the opportunity to reach across communities and barriers, creating tolerance, understanding and community - all of which can contribute to better physical, emotional and mental health for seniors.
This study is the seventh piece of research conducted by CAP, which was established in December 2005 to improve the quality of life for seniors. Along with other organizations with interests in this field, CAP is driven to be a strong, informed voice that challenges attitudes and approaches to aging. Its goal is "to empower older people to transform how they are viewed by sections within our society. To realize this, the program will develop a holistic agenda that recognizes the multiple realities of older people's lives alongside issues traditionally associated with older people such as health and social care, economic independence and community safety."
News Release: Dance your way to successful aging www.sciencedaily.com April 10, 2009
News Release: Dancing for healthy old age www.healthypages.co.uk