There's new clinical research showing that older people can dance their way towards improved health and happiness, according to a report from the Changing Aging Partnership in the UK.
The research, by Dr. Jonathan Skinner from Queen’s University (Belfast, Ireland) reveals the social, mental and physical benefits of social dancing for older adults. It suggests that dancing staves off illness, and even counteracts many kinds of aging decline.
In his study, Dr. Skinner recommends expanding the social dance opportunities for senior citizens in order to aid them in successful aging, and to help them enjoy longer and healthier lives. Skinner, a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at Queen’s, studied the effects of social dancing amongst older people in Northern Ireland, Blackpool and Sacramento, California.
"I have found that social dancing leads to a continued engagement with life - past, present, and future - and holds the promise for successful aging. It contributes to the longevity of the dancers, giving them something to enjoy and focus upon - something to live for. It alleviates social isolation and quite literally helps take away the aches and pains associated with older age," said the author.
One of his subjects, Sarah, is a 70-year-old from Ireland and a regular ice-dancer, who took part in the study because her daughters brought her down to the ice rink. "I have to say, after years of dancing on a Ballroom floor, I was very impressed with this type of dancing due to its great flow and speed. I’ve been doing it for twelve years now. We do the rumba, quickstep, foxtrot and tango [on ice]. 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’.”
All I can wish for my 85 year old Mom is that she finds a group like Sarah did and continues her love of dancing, which she has neglected since my father's death. If you know a senior who once loved to dance but who has been away from that passion, find a way to get them involved again. It's just plain healthy.