So many of us sigh when we hear the word exercise. It doesn’t often have a good feeling associated with it (it could have something to do with the fact that we’re supposed to do it).
But when we hear the word dance? What a different reaction! Dance is a terrific expression and way to move your body in whatever way you can and in whatever way pleases you.
Dancing throughout the ages has brought us joy and served as a method of self expression. It’s wonderfully physical and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Dancing not only can increase activity for the muscles and the heart, but also has been linked to cognitive improvement, especially for those dancing with partners.
The medical community has been using dance as a method of therapy for over 50 years. Add in the social benefits and you’ve got a wonderful recipe for a physical activity that has numerous brain, health and emotional benefits.
Benefits of Dance for Seniors
Not only does dancing increase balance, improve cognition and possibly assist in memory, the cardiovascular aspect can’t be beat. In addition, regular exercise (dancing) can help to control high blood pressure and cholesterol.
UT Southwestern indicates on their website that regular dancing can also have a positive impact on dementia, whether treating or preventing. “Exercise, combined with proper medication management and a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of dementia. Some studies suggest that 35 percent of dementia cases are preventable or can be delayed by addressing lifestyle factors…. A 2003 study compared forms of exercise and cognitive activities, including dance, to determine whether any reduced the risk of dementia. The data suggest that dancing, reading, playing board games, and playing musical instruments showed a significant reduction in dementia risk over a 20-year period.”
The benefits of music and music therapy have been well documented. Several studies on music used in therapies with Alzheimer’s patients has been shown to:
- Reduce stress, agitation, and anxiety
- Lower blood pressure
- Stimulate and improve cognition
- Enhance memory skills
- Reduce symptoms of depression
- Improve sleep and general rest
Studies by Johns Hopkins researchers suggests that music triggers and stimulates cognition in the brain because, “Music is structural, mathematical and architectural. It’s based on relationships between one note and the next. You may not be aware of it, but your brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of it,” notes one otolaryngologist.”
Music has also been linked to memory recall. Not only can music trigger specific memories, it can actually make us feel a specific way. If we met our spouse while hearing a particular song, we may actually feel the happiness of that moment when we hear the song later in life.
How to Curate the Perfect Dance Track
Whether for yourself, or a loved one, how do we go about choosing the right music? Often the music we love is from a time in our lives when we were happy. It could be when we were teenagers and out dancing with our friends or going to dances as young married couples.
Look for old favorites. These songs will bring you back to a “lighter” time. It could be hymns from youth or pop music from the era you grew up in. It doesn’t matter if it’s jazz, country or rockabilly. Everyone has their favorites songs and these should be on their personal playlist.
Check the charts. One way to try out some new songs for your loved one is to have a look at the popular charts from the era. If you or your loved one grew up in the fifties, see what was popular back then. Look for something with a beat, that will inspire a little movement.
Sing-along songs. The songs that makes us want to sing along are often the ones we connect with a happy feeling. Funny enough, even those of us who can’t remember computer passwords can always remember the words to our favorite songs. Songs like, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. “American Pie”, “Country Roads” and patriotic songs like “This Land is Your Land” will almost certainly evoke some singing if not also some movement.
Smooth music to soothe nerves. There is a controversial theory known as “The Mozart Effect” that suggest that spatial reasoning is improved during and for a short duration after listening to classical music. Calming classical or non-rhythmic ambient music has been shown to reduce agitation and might make certain activities of daily living easier for a senior.
How to Get Dancing
Dancing at home is a wonderful expression of movement and creative outlet. Be sure that your moving within your capacity and that safety measures are in place. *Of course, speaking with a doctor before beginning any new exercise program is recommended.
- Wear supportive footwear, like sneakers.
- Check out local senior communities and services to see when local dances might be scheduled.
- Dance with a partner.
- Take a class.
- Check out dancing workouts for seniors on YouTube.
If you’re looking for inspiration, watch this video on the 96 year old “Dancing Nana”:
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
*No information in this article is to be taken as medical advice. This post is not sponsored, but may contain external links to websites, articles or product examples. External links are used for example or refence purposes only and these links do not indicate specific product or website endorsement by CareGivers of America.