Strictly Come Dancing: TV that champions older talent

02 October 2017
Strictly Come Dancing is a rare example of a skills-based reality TV show that champions older talent.

The official countdown to Christmas has begun: Strictly Come Dancing is back and the nation is once again in the grip of a serious case of Strictly fever.

SCD provides the perfect Saturday night in entertainment during the autumn and winter months for viewers of all ages, but its championing of older talent - and indeed its focus on talent in general - is what sets it apart from many of the UK's other reality TV shows.

A nation aflush with Strictly fever

Since its first series in 2004, Strictly has significantly boosted the profile of ballroom dancing, which is an ideal hobby to take up in retirement. It's a great form of exercise and a fun way to meet new people and learn a new skill. Dancing can keep both your mind and body active, which has been proven to keep degenerative conditions like dementia at bay.

The popularity of ballroom and Latin ballroom dancing has soared over the past 13 years, with Strictly fever leaving classes struggling with capacity. Viewers are seeing soap actors, chefs and newsreaders mastering dances like the Charleston and the Viennese waltz and thinking 'if they can do it, so can I', which is a brilliant attitude to have.

It's a skill that appeals to all age groups and this year older people have over-50s Debbie McGee and comedian Brian Conley representing their demographic. McGee has been blowing the judges away with her grace and skill, while Conley beat younger contestant Chizzy Akudolu in the first dance-off of the series, showing that age doesn't have to be a barrier to success - something the late Sir Bruce Forsyth also demonstrated.

Nice to see you…

Brucie, who sadly passed away in August this year, was 76 at the time of the first series of Strictly Come Dancing airing in 2004. He carried on co-presenting the show until 2013, by which time he was aged 85 and he was forced to pull out due to ill health.

Sir Bruce is a prime example of what you can achieve in later life if you don't let age define your retirement or stop you from achieving your dreams. It's never too late to get involved in a new venture, as he proved, and he showed you can carry on having a lot of fun and enjoy life well into old age - and didn't he do well?

Age adds authority on the judging panel

Len Goodman, who had served as head judge of the Strictly panel since 2004, retired from the show at the end of 2016 at the age of 72. He is still pursuing a career in television hosting Len Goodman's Partners in Rhyme - a show inspired by his famous catchphrase 'It's a ten from Len!' - which has a less demanding filming schedule than Strictly.

Some fans of SCD were concerned that he would be replaced with a much younger judge, as was the case when 30-year-old former winner of the show Alesha Dixon replaced 66-year-old Arlene Philips on the panel back in 2009 amid much controversy.

However, producers seem to have learnt their lesson and have this time opted for a more experienced replacement, 57-year-old Shirley Ballas, who was known as 'the Queen of Latin' at the height of her dancing days.

Ballas has very quickly won over the general public with her warm attitude and extremely high level of dancing knowledge and is acting as yet another example of why it's never too late in life to accept new opportunities.

Most people are thinking about retirement at this age, but Shirley is showing that there's no need to stop using all of that knowledge and experience you've amassed over the duration of your career just because you're getting older.

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Image credit: Gemalbarra via iStock