iDANCE works with people of all ages who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and with retirement home seniors who can physically dance as well as those who are restricted to wheelchairs. In all cases, our multi-faceted Fit Brain programs are designed to take advantage of the proven therapeutic power of dance to stimulate cognition, awaken memories and quicken the joy of being alive.
Our programs provide an open social dance environment for those who know how to dance, as well as simple dance instruction for those who have not danced or who need reminders. Invariably, participants experience cognitive and physical recreational benefits that heighten awareness and lead to richer, more positive relationships with their peers.
What we’ve witnessed firsthand over years of bringing dance to people who otherwise wouldn’t enjoy the experience has been borne out by scientific research. For example, a landmark 21-year study of people 75 and older led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that no other cognitive or physical activity they measured had the impact dancing had in reducing the risks of diminished mental acuity.
That’s because, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, dance uniquely combines the benefits of physical activity with education. In other words, nothing compares to learning and practicing dance steps combined with the split-second decision making that comes with coordinating moves with a partner. As Stanford University Division of Dance visiting lecturer Richard Powers writes in a summary of scientific findings, “Dancing integrates several brain functions at once – kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional – further increasing your neural connectivity.”
In partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association iDANCE has structured classes for people with early onset Alzheimer’s as well as those in more advanced stages of care. For our early onset students we offer an opportunity to engage in a structured program where they gain the benefits of a learning experience over a succession of classes. During the 8-9 week program students have an opportunity to learn two dances, presenting them a challenge which they embrace with relish to great effect in their efforts to strengthen mental acuity.
We also conduct dance classes for residents in Alzheimer’s facilities. Bringing our students the music they listened to in their late teens and early twenties has an amazing impact on their powers of recall. As they dance, the body and mind connection combines with the energy of touch to work wonders, bringing joy and a sense of belonging many haven’t experienced for years.
Our professional dance teachers come to the elder care communities to teach ballroom dance, creating a fun social environment where all who choose to participate can dance with simple and safe movements to the music of Frank, Tony and all the other great performers they grew up listening to. Many residents have ballroom dance histories or dance abilities that are brought to life with marvelous results by their participation in the program. But no matter what their experience, we find that eventually most residents take to the floor smiling and singing as the session progresses.
Our team engages every resident to dance with the room set up in a circle so they all can enjoy the activity together. Each session lasts an hour, beginning with a short 5 to 10 minute demonstration of how residents can simply move to the music. This works well for those who are able to stand and move about as well as for those who are confined to walkers or wheelchairs. (The majority of dancing in retirement homes is done by those in wheelchairs.) The demonstration is followed by 40 to 45 minutes of open social dance. We conclude the session with 5 to 10 minutes when we thank every resident individually.
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