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Benefits of dancing

Mr President,

Today I wish to speak about some of the issues that many elderly people in my electorate are experiencing. It is widely accepted that looking after ourselves and keeping healthy means more than just eating well and getting regular exercise. It also means taking care of our mental health, our emotional wellbeing and our sense of belonging. The feedback loop between our physical, mental and emotional health is also well-established, and nothing has brought this to light more than the advent of COVID-19.

Over the past month or so, I have been hearing from a number of constituents about the so-called ‘dancing ban’ – not from the younger, more nightclub-oriented contingent – but from our older ranks. These are the people who like to head out to the Italian Club or the local RSL for a cup of tea, maybe a small glass of wine, and dance for one afternoon a week.

I’ve received a number of letters from people to whom this one weekly activity means the absolute world. One of these letters, the author of which I will keep anonymous, has said “our social life, at our age, has a limited span and we are feeling the affects of lack of exercise in the form of depression and isolation… at our age we don’t drink – we drive.”

Another person in their eighties says that now they just sit around, they feel older than they are and that their outlook on life is less happy than it once was. Yet another writer has said that their doctor has said “please don’t stop dancing” because it’s so good for their heart health. Others have special physical needs and the movement and music helps them to relax and have an afternoon of enjoyment.

Being able to move, have a cup of tea, a sandwich and a good chat with their mates is an absolute necessity and highlight of these people’s weeks.

Of the numerous letters in my possession, there is one common thread: the overwhelming concerns about the mental health implications of having a much-loved recreational physical activity stymied.

Of course, solutions like having separate food and drinking areas in these venues has been explored, but the rules state that as soon as someone leaves the dancing area to the food and drink area, they can’t return. For younger people at their leavers dinners, as we have seen in the news, this might not be such a problem. But for older people, this is a bit harder when they need more frequent rests. Additionally, hosting venues are more or less obliged to sell food and drink for these events, otherwise they would be trading at a loss to pay for staff, music and other costs without any way to make a bit of money. We can’t expect these venues to simply run for free.

Many people are feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I want to make it clear, that I believe the Government has done a stellar job in suppressing the virus here in Tasmania and I do know that they are doing everything they can to accommodate as many people as possible.

However, I can too easily foresee the detrimental results this particular issue will have for our older contingency, with the mental, physical and social effects already manifesting, and many quite literally pleading to be allowed to do what they love. I hope that very soon, like the leavers dinners, a reasonable and common sense solution can be reached.

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