One of our residents’ (and staff’s) favorite activities in our Anthem communities is dancing. Whether it’s fast, slow, a conga line or just swaying back and forth, the experience of moving in time to music has a therapeutic value all its own. That’s why we find every opportunity to get our residents up and involved, not only to have fun and raise spirits but also to stimulate their brains!
Yes, there is science to back this up! Numerous studies support the connection between dancing and brain health. In one study, conducted at Harvard Medical School, PET scans revealed how the act of dancing stimulates “identified regions of the brain that contribute to dance learning and performance.” Another study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that participating in leisure activities, such as dance, was associated with a lower risk of dementia.
Other studies have found that the act of engaging in a dance move challenges memory, coordination, attention and cognition. The processes involved in recalling a familiar dance move further stimulates the brain. As the neuron activity increases it can potentially open new pathways for new thoughts and ideas. This holds true for many individuals with dementia as well. Dancing and dance therapy can improve social interaction as well as mood, while reducing depression and anxiety in individuals with dementia.
What does all this mean? It means that dance, as well as being a lot of fun, brings legitimate health benefits to the body and brain, even for those struggling with dementia. Activities that encourage coordination of muscles along with external stimuli, such as music or drums, provides health benefits to old and young alike.
Below is a great video showing two residents of Harvester Place Memory Care in Burr Ridge, Illinois, having a great time breaking out their dance moves.
For those of you caring for a loved one with dementia, try playing some lively songs they remember from their younger years. Encourage them to get up and move around. Doing so on a regular basis gives them (and you) exercise in a way that is enjoyable and keeps the brain active.
(The cover image was taken at Chelsea Place Memory Care in Aurora, Colorado)