Seoul's daytime discos for seniors are better than medicine

Disco ball
© Evannostro

Break out the gold lamé, Grandma, and trip the light fantastic!

In every list of tips for preventing dementia, two items are always included: Be physically active and don't stop socializing. With 50 million people having dementia – and with one new case every three seconds – the number of people with dementia is set to triple by 2050, according to the World Health Organization.

But how to get seniors moving and mingling? Give them discotheques, of course.

Cynthia Kim reports for Reuters of one such destination, "hidden among the back alleys of eastern Seoul," that attracts, get this, 1,000 people per weekday – and up to 2,000 on the weekends. And it is just one of nearly 1,000 similar "colatecs" around the country.

"Colatecs, a portmanteau of cola and discotheque, have arisen to serve South Korea’s rapidly aging population, as a growing number of lonely, impoverished and ailing people rediscover ways to entertain themselves after decades of hard work," writes Kim. Originally intended for South Korean teens, the colatecs have given way to the country's seniors – and it is having a profound effect.

Some seniors call it a playground, others say it is their medicine – or even better than medicine. In the BBC video below, a masquerade disco has miracle powers like that of a televangelist healer, helping people toss their walkers and recover vitality they thought long gone.

"Some people are not even able to walk at first, but after coming here for a while, I've seen them throw their canes away and run around," says a voice in the video.

Kim writes that South Korea's older generation is "now the poorest and most depressed among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]."

"The relative poverty rate of South Korea’s elderly stood at 49.6 percent in 2013, four times the OECD average, according to the latest available data," she adds. "The elderly suicide rate rose from 35 per 100,000 persons in 2000 to 82 in 2010, also far above the OECD average of 22."

With few opportunities for work after retirement and not much in the way of cheap leisure, it's no wonder the colatecs are thriving. And as a preventative strategy for good health and well-being, it's brilliant.

At the New Hyundai Core colatec, Kim describes a dance instructor who plays matchmaker, helping anyone who looks lost or lonely find a partner.

“Those helpers sometimes take me to new woman and put our hands together to dance. I buy them a bottle of Will during our tea breaks,” says 85-year-old Kim In-gil. Will is the club's best-selling drink – a local probiotic yogurt.

With the number of people over 65 quickly ascending, we need more creative options for keeping an aging population healthy and engaged. The benefits of physical activity and socializing are well-known, add in a disco ball and The Hustle and there's no telling how beneficial this craze could be.

Seoul's daytime discos for seniors are better than medicine
Break out the gold lamé, Grandma, and trip the light fantastic!

Related Content on Treehugger.com