“I feel that the essence of dance is the expression of man--the landscape of his soul. I hope that every dance I do reveals something of myself or some wonderful thing a human can be.” ― Martha Graham, Blood Memory
For most of us, dance is a form of expression or liberation. But there has also been known emphasis on dance with health and physiology. In fact, even dementia!
The Alzheimer’s Association defines dementia as a condition whereby one’s overall functioning in life is impaired due to decline in memory. In medical terminology, it is progressive and neurodegenerative. In simpler terms, there is damage to brain cells affecting their communication to each other and their ability to perform functions such as memory, judgement, and even movement. As it is progressive, the mental impairment leads to limitations in activity eventually resulting in disability. And any disability, if not exercised (pun intended), can worsen one’s condition.
A meta-analysis study showed that aerobic exercise therapy can improve the functional capacity and physical performance in various populations, especially of elderly patients. This reduced their need to be dependent on others for their care and assisted daily living.
So, this brings in our focus on Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) – an exercise therapy that also integrates social therapeutic components. A study showed that DMT integration of emotional, cognitive and physical functions of the body stimulates different regions in the brain associated with memory, motor skills and intellect. Through such a therapy, areas of the brain involved in profound impairment in dementia such as the Hippocampus, that is involved in spatial memory, could also be activated.
Older adults suffering with dementia often become disorientated in time and space with decline in memory. Often, such impairments develop feelings of fear resulting in many living in isolation. So, why dance? Dancing provides an excellent opportunity to not only maintain and improve the spatial orientation but it also offers a sense of connection in a grouped therapy session. As a non- verbal form of expression, dancing can indeed provide liberation to older adults especially those with declining verbal abilities. In fact, it provokes and enhances emotional response and functional skills that can improve daily living and emotional well-being of older adults. So, next time you cha-cha away, invite an elderly you know! The joy in dancing is so contagious, you might just remind someone of their younger days!
1. What is Dementia? https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
2. Pasanen, T., Tolvanen, S., Heinonen, A., & Kujala, U. M. (2017). Exercise therapy for functional capacity in chronic diseases: an overview of meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(20), 1459-1465. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-097132
3. Foster, P. P. (2013). How does dancing promote brain reconditioning in the elderly? Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 5, 4. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2013.00004