Date of Completion

5-2016

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Discipline

Psychology (PSYC)

First Advisor

Adam Fingerhut

Second Advisor

Kristen Smiarowski

Abstract

As the population of older adults expands, it becomes increasingly important to develop effective interventions to ensure high levels of well-being. Previous research in a variety of populations has shown that dance produces broad benefits including improving physical mobility, social relationships, autonomy, and self-image. Given this, the present study attempted to clarify the mechanisms through which dance might lead to these improvements. Specifically, this research examined the role of self-efficacy, or beliefs that one can accomplish certain tasks, have in explaining the psychological benefits of dance. I hypothesized that when dance is a social activity it instills a sense of connectedness, which in turn benefits well-being. I also hypothesized that because dance encourages creativity and improves sense of control, it positively affects self-efficacy, which in turn improves well-being. In order to test these hypotheses, I collaborated with nearby centers for older adults and utilized a pretest-posttest design to examine changes in well-being following a one-hour dance class. Participants completed existing measures of general efficacy, physical efficacy, loneliness and well-being. One week later, they participated in an hour-long, seated dance class based in a curriculum titled “Dance for Veterans” and then completed the same measures as at pretest. Do to a sample size of N=9, there are no significant results. Further research in this area is crucial as the population continues to age. Existing dance programs are easily replicable and may provide aging individuals an opportunity to creatively engage their bodies while building efficacy and well-being.