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How dance transcends age

February 14, 2011

I recently ran across a story about a retirement home that hired young dancers and college students to be “dance hosts” for the elderly ladies of their community. It was an inspiring local story that discussed how retirements homes can have as many as three times the number of men, so they brought in a fresh infusion of young blood to dance with these ladies. What struck me in particular about the article was that both the young and old had a wonderful time, praising the other group about their experience. This to me is the perfect example of how dance transcends age and allows people across generations to share in an activity together.

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert

In my own experience, I have had the pleasure of dancing with many people both older and younger than myself. One of my regular dance partners when I did folk dancing was in his 70s, and he was amazingly spry for his advanced age. In some ways, dancing with the elderly can be more fun than dancing with people our own age (assuming you don’t already fit into that category).

I find that older dancers often have decades of dance experience, since they started dancing in their youth during time frames in our history when dancing was an important social activity. They also often have the most wonderful smiles and seem to truly love being on the dance floor. They are not hung up on whether they are dancing right or the fact that they cannot do fancy, over-the-top figures. They just love being out there and dancing with “young” people. I would imagine it helps them to feel younger and reconnect with memories they may have of dancing in their younger years. It allows them to connect and be close with other people outside of their friends and family, at a time in their life when contact with others may become more limited as their ability to go places diminishes and their social lives contract.

Dance is an important and special medium which allows us to touch others, both metaphorically and literally, and bring joy to people that can often feel isolated with the passage of time. So as a dancer, I would encourage you to share dancing with the elderly – whether that means performing for them or making sure to dance with them at an events. It is a simple act well worth the effort and a beautiful experience waiting to be made.

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