Exercise is important for optimising physical and mental health, especially as people age.
Dr Marty Hirst from Ausdance Victoria says dancing is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise when we age.
Marty says this is because dance combines physical movement with the emotional connection of shared experience, and it activates important areas of the brain which aids long-term cognitive function.
Between 2017-2018, Ausdance Victoria undertook research into the breadth and prevalence of dance programs delivered specifically for older people in Australia.
The outcome was an in-depth report titled, 'Leading and teaching dance to ageing populations'.
The research was a response to unprecedented inquiries about seniors' dance programs and recommendations for dance teachers with suitable experience and qualifications.
Director of Education and Lifelong Learning at Ausdance Victoria, Katrina Rank PhD, says dancing can reduce the risk of dementia, improve balance, core strength and coordination, leading to a reduction in falls.
She says it also increases social connectedness, mental health and well-being, while improving physical condition and mental acuity.
"It follows that ongoing, quality dance programs have the potential to ease pressure on future health budgets by providing physical activity that engages individuals physically, mentally, socially, intellectually and creatively," she says.
Katrina says their research discovered a vibrant and healthy mature dance sector operating throughout the country, with concentrations in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.
"Dancing takes place in the community, engaging dancers in classes, projects and performances and in supported environments, such as care facilities," Katrina says. "Research shows that participation in ongoing dance programs improves health outcomes for older individuals."
This story is from the autumn edition of Bendigo Seniors magazine. Click here to read the entire magazine online.
There are many different forms of dance, some of which can be practiced alone and others with a partner or group.
Ausdance Victoria's report also found that there was a shortage of trained dance educators who could work in the space of creative ageing.
Marty says to address this gap in the market, Ausdance Victoria created its Creative Ageing Through Dance training package to give dance teachers and allied health professionals an opportunity to take on new skills and be able to teach dance safely to cohorts of elderly people.
"The scientific literature supports the idea that dance is a beneficial physical and social activity for older people," he says. "As the cohort of elderly Australians continues to grow, there will be an increase in demand for services to assist people to age well both physically and emotionally.
"At the moment, it seems that we are under-prepared to deliver the required support in the community or in care facilities."
Marty says Ausdance Victoria is a strong advocate for dance to be included in a suite of therapies designed and curated to help older Australians to successfully navigate the later stages of their lives in comfort and joy.