Senior Citizen Social Inclusion through Social Dance
Changing Ageing Partnership (CAP) 2007-2009
Dr Jonathan Skinner
The research benefited from assistance from the following organizations and individuals: the British Academy, the Department of Anthropology at California State University Sacramento, the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, the School of History and Anthropology (QUB), the Sacramento Dance4Life program, The Ballroom Studio (Sacramento), The Blackpool Tower (Blackpool), Dance With Thomas (Belfast), The Latin Quarter (Belfast), Dancesport NI (Belfast), The Irish Ballroom and Waltzing Federation (Dublin), Merrill Gardens Residential Home (Sacramento), Craigavon Borough Council (Northern Ireland), DJ Barry, Elizabeth Hsu, Shirley Ardener, Barnaly Pande, Una Lynch, Philomena Mulholland, and ‘Sarah’.
The research project moves away from traditional functionalist approaches to dance; from dance as cathartic activity; dance as courtship; dance as a choreographic play between resistance and self-regulation – to dance as social inclusion and social, mental and physical healing.
The projects was based on a qualitative study comparing social dancing as social inclusion amongst senior citizens in three cities and regions: around Belfast and Northern Ireland, Blackpool (GB) and Sacramento (US). It used interviews to explore three different social dancing models: social dance as tea dance (Sacramento), social dance as practice dance (Blackpool), social dance as motility (Belfast and environs).
Findings also attest to the social, psychological and health benefits of social dancing amongst senior citizens. This form of ‘serious leisure’ has the potential: to bring people together across communities creating solidarity, tolerance and understanding; to shatter stereotypes held about living in retirement; to renew of the body and the mind - changing the body from being a source of oppression to a source of freedom.In sum, this social dancing is egalitarian and fosters a ‘young-old’ category of senior citizen with a continued engagement with life - past, present, and future. Social dance, then, holds the promise for successful ageing as the following quotations from dancers suggest:
You see the thing is when you retire you don’t have to live the same kind of life you did before. Alright I worked in science all my life, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t change and become a dancer. So it’s a different phase of life. A lot of people they don’t realise that this is the best time of your life. (Bill, Sacramento).
They opened a new ice rink in Bangor [Northern Ireland] and my daughters brought me down and said, ‘Mum, would you like to go skating?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve never skated’. But they said, ‘You do roller - you did roller skating when you were younger’. It was great then: we had a road to fly down and every hill we went on. Well there was no bicycles in those days and not many cars. I could do ballroom dancing so I wanted to see what it was like to do dancing on skates. And I must say I was very impressed and it’s great: flowing and speed! I’ve been doing it for twelve years now. We do rumba, waltz, quickstep, foxtrot, tango. She [ice skating instructor] did want me to compete, but I thought, no, I’d leave it to the younger generation. (Sarah, Bangor).Research Impact Illustrated by Press Clippings
UK News of the World, Irish Sunday Times, India Times, Malaysia Times, Dubai News, Science Daily E-news, E-Science News, MSN Lifestyle, and WorldHealth.net (The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine) as well as a large number of health and age studies/science blogs.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M)