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Dance your way to successful ageing

31 March 2009 Queen's University, Belfast

Older people can dance their way towards improved health and happiness, according to a report from the Changing Ageing Partnership (CAP).

The research, by Dr Jonathan Skinner from Queen’s University Belfast, reveals the social, mental and physical benefits of social dancing for older people. It suggests that dancing staves of illness, and even counteracts decline in ageing.

Recommendations include the expansion of social dance provision for older people in order to aid successful ageing and help older people enjoy longer and healthier lives.

Jonathan Skinner, Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the School of History and Anthropology at Queen’s, studied the effects of social dancing amongst older people in Northern Ireland, Blackpool and Sacramento, USA.

Dr Skinner said: "I have found that social dancing leads to a continued engagement with life - past, present, and future - and holds the promise for successful ageing. It contributes to the longevity of the dancers, giving them something to enjoy and focus upon - to live for. It alleviates social isolation and quite literally helps take away the aches and pains associated with older age.

“In addition to this, and especially in Northern Ireland, dancing brings people together across communities, creating solidarity, tolerance and understanding."

Sarah, a 70-year-old from Bangor and a regular ice-dancer, took part in the study. Sarah said: "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 twelve 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’.”

Dr Una Lynch, CAP Research Manager at Queen’s said: "Dr Skinner's study is the seventh piece of CAP research to be completed and we are delighted to be involved in a study that challenges stereotypical images of ageing and highlights the fact that healthy ageing can be fun."

The researcher, Jonathan Skinner, will present further findings and recommendations of the research at a research launch at the Institute of Governance at Queen’s University Belfast at 1pm on Wednesday 1 April.

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