En español | Don't you miss going out dancing? On July 18, you'll get a chance to join a fantastic virtual dance party online and kick up your heels in safety at home. AARP's “Dancing Through the Decades” virtual dance party kicks up its heels from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 18. It is hosted by Daybreaker Live and is free, and you can register at daybreaker.com/aarp. Registration is open until 10:45 a.m. ET on the day of the event.
Dance with Debbie Allen and more stars
Here's how the party works. Via the Zoom video chat platform, 20-time Emmy-nominated actress and choreographer Debbie Allen, 70 (Fame, Grey's Anatomy), will teach you dance steps from the 1960s through the 1980s, followed by special guests such as the Village People, who will lead dances to hits including their iconic anthem “YMCA.” Gloria Gaynor will sing “I Will Survive,” Jefferson Starship will delight with “Somebody to Love” and Jellybean Benitez, a former Studio 54 DJ, will play all the hit songs of that era throughout the party. Be sure to dress for the decade you prefer — from ‘60s go-go boots to ‘80s big hair and shoulder pads — because it's an interactive Zoom event, and you could appear on the Dance Cam. You'll be joining a crowd likely bigger than American Bandstand ever saw — everybody in their own spaces, sharing the joy and laughs.
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Good fun and good for you
What nostalgic fun! But make no mistake — taking part in a dance party is also seriously good for you at a time when it can be more challenging to get exercise. As revealed in a new report by the AARP-founded Global Council on Brain Health, music and dance are effective treatment tools for a wide range of age-related diseases, including Parkinson's disease and dementia. According to experts, both activities stimulate the brain, relieve stress, build social connections and combat the isolation that plagues so many of us these days.
And it may be that the combination of music and movement packs a greater benefit, according to John W. Krakauer, director of the Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Synchronizing music, which many studies have shown is pleasing to both the ear and brain, and movement — in essence, dance — may constitute a pleasure double play,” Krakauer wrote in Scientific American. Simply put: Music stimulates the brain's reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits, according to Krakauer.
And while exercise in general has many positive effects on well-being and health, a study of 479 adults 70 years and older published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 showed that of 11 physical activities (including cycling and swimming), only dance lowered dementia risk.
Sing and dance into your 90s
For evidence that music and movement can have a life-changing impact, look no further than the marvelous comedian Carl Reiner, who lived a rich and vibrant life until his recent death at 98. He told AARP in 2017 that yoga and singing old songs while taking brisk walks kept him healthy — despite a bad back injury he suffered after falling down the stairs when was in his 20s. “For years I walked around the block, singing all the words to maybe 20 songs,” said Reiner, who remained mentally alert, physically fit and professionally successful throughout his life.
Lace up your dancing shoes!
So why not give yourself a pleasure double play by joining Gaynor, the Starship, Allen, the Village People and more at the “Dancing Through the Decades” event on July 18? It's open to AARP members and nonmembers of all ages. It won't cost you a cent — but to get in on the healthy fun, you must register ahead of time at daybreaker.com/aarp.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 30, 2020. It has been updated with the latest information about the event.