This qualitative research study investigated active, older, but youthful, women and their participation in a community exercise program, FitDance. This dance-fitness fitness program began in 1991, in cooperation with the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Community Alliance, with a goal of lowering alcoholism and addiction in senior adults. FitDance has been shown to actively contribute to members’ and their families’ health and well-being by providing effective aerobic dance-exercise training, enjoyment, and community. FitDance was found to improve mental and physical health.
FitDance framed older adulthood as a time of potential, wisdom, and growth, (Ranzijn, 2002) beyond decrements. FitDance study participants demonstrated high program adherence levels, with some members training for over 15 years, and two, for over 20 years. This study investigated the value of the FitDance program qualities, including PEEPS: Positive, Enjoyable, Exercise Practice Strengths, and what made participants stay active, engaged, and satisfied with this appreciative group exercise program over time (Cooperrider & Fry, 2013). This study revealed how FitDance has had a positive impact on participants, families, communities, and society. This research considered how this program’s attributes, including priming flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997), can be generalized to allow other groups, across domains, to achieve similar positive social-emotional results.
This study’s threefold purposes were, first, to present eight active, vibrant, functionally fit, women, ages 71-81, who FitDance, and who are positive role models of motivation, program adherence (training twice weekly from between 5-19 years), and self- determination (Deci & Ryan, 2002). The second purpose was to look at the FitDance model, and how it uplifted mental and physical wellness. The mental health benefits were an important factor emphasized by both participants and their children; efforts to sustain and preserve cognitive and mental health were highly valued. The third purpose examined how FitDance has built a positive community through a social fitness model. The social fitness aspect, combining an enjoyable atmosphere in a professional setting, was deemed an important contributor to motivation and adherence. Participants unanimously revealed that the FitDance program was a place where people felt welcomed, positively engaged, challenged, sincerely praised, and connected to fellow participants. Adult children who were surveyed about their mother’s activity, fitness level, and experience in FitDance substantiated their mother’s general vibrancy and her program satisfaction. The stated goals of the FitDance program were to promote vibrant aging, social connections, and well-being by increasing motivation and adherence in community exercise. These goals were realized.
Community group dance-exercise programming has the potential to move masses of people toward health and thriving; this is especially important in gerontological terms, impacting fiscal, and especially quality of life measures. Similar to Aristotle’s investigation of virtue, and views about living the good life (Aristotle/Sachs, 2002), PEEPS: positive enjoyable, exercise practices harnessing strengths, matter. With PEEPS, FitDance offers health and healing against the epidemic of inactivity (Blair, 2009, Sallis, 2009), the age wave (Dychtwald & Flower, 1989), and builds uplifting face-to-face, social capital in a digital world (Putnam, 2000).
|Adviser||Michael L. Sachs|
|Subjects||Gerontology; Kinesiology; Clinical psychology|
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