In this article I wanted to highlight the benefits of movement and in particular dancing to music, for the elderly.
So for those of you who don’t know, my name is Simon and I am a professional ballroom and Latin American dance teacher. But also, I spend a lot of my time going into residential & dementia care homes and day centres, to dance with the residents both with ability and in wheelchairs, to a lot of the popular tunes that they will know.
Quite often, before I get booked by a new home, the staff will ask me questions like, “can you dance with residents in their chairs?”, “will I have to get up and dance?”, “will they like the music?”.
But also, some of them will ask if it is suitable for people living with #dementia , which is definitely is (and I have discussed this in another article) and what the benefits are for their residents.
So, I thought I would highlight some of them here.
Movement memories are in the cerebellum part of the brain. A lot of people think of this as muscle memory. So even people living with dementia, you cannot recognise faces will still have this muscle memory working.
We use the language centre part of the brain, called the temporal lobe, to interpret music and sound. Again, this is part of the brain that doesn’t tend to get affected with old age, or some forms of dementia, so people will still remember words to songs from many years ago.
There are the more obvious benefits to movement, for example, improving strength and flexibility. And increasing stamina. There is also the old adage, “use it or lose it“ which I think is a very good point, and something I say to the residents quite a lot!
But there are not just the physical benefits to movement and music, there are the mental ones as well. Music can be incredibly uplifting, so singing along to a song that you know while watching somebody dance, can be a huge benefit for mental health and after the last two years I think we all realise, that this is something we need to focus on more.
Also, exercise is very good for our mental health as well as physical well-being. And so getting up to dance a foxtrot, all kicking along to a rock n roll in your wheelchair, can be a great benefit to the elderly both physically and mentally!
And it’s not just the residents, the staff can get something out of it as well. Watching the smiles and laughter of the residents, and also joining you. I think it’s something all care home staff need after such a traumatic couple of years! I been doing some dance lessons for the staff in care homes since I first started going to them, but recently a lot more managers have asked me to come in and do this, as hey recognise the benefit for the morale if their staff!
So hopefully, now that our lives are less restricted than they have been for the last two years, people will get up of the sofa and join a dance class! And, more care homes will see the benefit of some dancing in their home!
Don't forget, we only get one shot at this life, so put your best foot forward!