Yes, “dancing cheek to cheek,” as Irving Berlin sings, can be romantic – but senior citizens can also take a spin on the dance floor to stay healthy, as well as to improve while, or after, battling physical or emotional problems.
And the list of benefits of dancing for senior citizens is a long one. According to the American Medical Association, dancing can strengthen bones and muscles, improve posture and balance – which can prevent falls, increase flexibility, reduce stress, build confidence and ward off such illnesses as high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and depression.
“Whether it’s ballet or ballroom, clogging or jazz, dance is great for helping people of all ages and physical abilities get and stay in shape,” the AARP wrote. “There’s even chair dancing for people with physical limitations.”
Dancing doesn’t only give individuals a physical boost – it can serve as a serious buffer between older residents and dementia. According to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine, going ballroom dancing at least twice a week made it less likely that people would develop dementia. And, other research has reported that some individuals with Alzheimer’s have been able to remember once-forgotten memories when they dance to music they knew in previous years.
So, what are the best ways older adults can dance for heart health – and increase longevity?
Before hitting the dance floor, hopeful Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers should consult with their doctors about physical activity – particularly for those who have known heart conditions, have felt pain while doing physical activity, lost balance because of dizziness, or have a bone or joint problem.
The National Dance Association reported that it is best for individuals who are just returning to physical activity to take things slowly. Remember that whatever one is recovering from – whether it’s a fall or something emotional like the death of a spouse – it’s crucial to give oneself time to get back in the swing of things.
There are many different kinds of dance, and some are more rigorous than others. For example, waltzing is less physically intensive than jazz, so remember to talk to instructors about the intensity of a certain dance style before jumping head-first into it.
Ballroom dance, line dancing and others kinds of social dance are often the most popular for those who are older than 50 – this, the AARP said, is a great way to meet people and get out of the house after, for example, the death of a loved one. Dance classes rarely require you to bring a partner, which means you can feel comfortable coming by yourself and meeting new people.
After choosing a class, individuals should stick with it for a while before deciding they do not enjoy it. It can be difficult, particularly after dealing with an illness, to return to the swing of things – but don’t give up. Even if you don’t get to where you once were physically, you can still have plenty of fun.
There are a myriad dance forms to try – but the AARP mentioned the following as types to try: square dancing, swing, line dancing, folk dancing, ballroom, belly dancing, salsa, flamenco, jazz, tap, modern, clogging, and contra.
And even if you don’t want to sashay in public, there’s plenty of opportunity to tap your feet in your own house. Turn on some of your favorite music and take a spin around your living room.
As for places outside of your living room, there is an exhaustive list of sites older residents can dance in Queens. Check out your local church or synagogue for starters, or give your neighborhood library a call. Whatever you do, and wherever you go, remember – this is about having fun.
By Anna Gustafson