Download Full Text (202 KB)


A proposal for a social dance intervention to improve health in older African Americans living in community settings

Olivia Alsamadi, Dept. of Dance & Choreography, with Dr. Ana Diallo, VCU School of Nursing

Introduction: Older low-income African Americans are at high risk for health problems such as falls, hypertension, stress, and depression, partly due to limited physical activity. Despite the fact that most healthcare professionals prescribe exercise, older adults are likely to drop out of exercise programs or avoid them altogether due to multiple barriers, including lack of interest. Social dance interventions offer innovative solutions for introducing exercise to interested individuals seeking an alternative exercise program. Low-impact aerobic exercise from social dance, for instance, can help address some health problems afflicting older adults, such as mobility, balance, sleep, and gait patterns. Additionally, the endorphins released from the exercise in conjunction with social interaction can combat residents’ depression and social isolation experiences. Furthermore, offering the opportunity to engage in social dancing as exercise on-site eliminates transportation barriers that keep older adults from participation. As part of the VCU Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation (iCubed) Health and Wellness Aging Core and in collaboration with the Richmond Health and Wellness Program (RHWP), our research team plans to work with senior residents of a low-income public housing building to assess the feasibility of introducing a social dance intervention to improve physical and mental health. Following implementation of the social dance intervention, it is hypothesized that there will be improvement in participant health and attitudes toward dance as physical activity. Methods: Ten residents will be recruited on a volunteer basis and then assessed by the occupational therapist on-site to determine whether this form of exercise is safe for this population. The research team will conduct surveys to assess residents’ past and current experiences and attitudes toward dancing, and their physical/mental health status. The research team will develop a social dance intervention based on residents’ feedback and tailored to their interests (e.g., line dancing). The proposed intervention will take place two times a week, each session lasting forty-five minutes, over a three-week period. Focus groups with the residents pre- and post-intervention will inform the development of this social dance intervention, as well as provide insight on their overall experience with said intervention. Data collected from the focus groups will be analyzed to determine how the participants’ attitudes about their health and physical activity change over the three weeks. Discussion: The research team hopes to find that the health of the subjects will improve after the intervention as well as their attitudes about their health. This can be tracked through the surveys that are taken before and after the intervention, and the responses given in the focus groups. The research team also hopes to see a new sense of community with the residents in this new group activity that can continue outside of the intervention. A possible limitation could be residents dropping out during the intervention, but we hope to prevent this by having the program onsite for the residents so it is easily accessible. Using social dance, we hope to create and foster a long-term relationship with the residents and sustained exercise and social interaction.

Publication Date


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Ana Diallo


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

A proposal for a social dance intervention to improve health in older African Americans living in community settings