In China, the national government has begun supporting practices and customs that sustain or improve the health of its aging population. One example is square dancing (广场舞), which is a popular practice among many female retirees in China in which women gather in public places, such as open squares or parks, to play popular music on a small speaker and dance to simple choreographed routines that can be learned online. The phenomenon, which is particularly prevalent in urban areas, began in the mid-1990s as older women in contemporary China moved into retirement. Square dancing quickly emerged as a popular to way to keep occupied, meet other retired women, and stay healthy through exercise. In this way, square dancing provides a source of exercise and socialization for a population who found themselves with a lack of stimulation and social interactions after retirement. Participation has been shown to have substantial benefits for participants’ mental and physical health.
Recently, government support for the practice in China has expanded to government-commissioned choreography and recommendations encouraging local administrators to provide or build facilities where women can dance. These actions demonstrate that the Chinese government recognizes the importance of the phenomenon to the health and livelihood of China’s rapidly growing elderly population, and that it understands that supporting local community practices can have a widespread positive effect on China’s expanding aging cohort. With an increasing amount of research outlining the empirical benefits of square dancing, it has become clear that support for practices similar practices could lead to an improvement in the management of China’s transition to an older population.
Similar to China, support for programs that could sustain both physical and mental health among the elderly population in the US could positively influence many aspects of national strength, especially since the US currently spends a significant amount of funds on health care for the elderly. China and the US should evaluate China’s support of square dancing as a model for preventionist, cost-effective programs for health care that have the potential to shift government energy and money away from aging populations and instead to other areas of national concern.