With ‘Strictly Fever’ upon us, many of us have to marvel at the sheer skill and spectacle of the professional dancers on the popular show. A large proportion of the programme’s fans come from those who are older and can remember well the days when everyone could do a simple waltz or foxtrot. The highlight of their week would be attending the local village or town hall weekend ‘hop’, where the only way to meet (and touch) members of the opposite sex was to dance to the local band. If asked now, many of those people would probably still be able to remember a few steps and if physically able, would be able to demonstrate with a willing partner.
Many care homes currently include music in their activity sessions, but how many encourage the more able residents to get out of their chairs and dance along? It may be discouraged in case of unsteadiness or the potential to fall. However, if additional staff or residents’ relatives could join in, then partnered dancing would enable those less able to be steadied while doing a few simple steps.
Those who are wheelchair-based could still enjoy swaying, clapping and doing some ‘armography’ moves to the music.
There are many proven tangible benefits to dancing:
Improved muscle strength
Dancing several times a week can tone lower body tone and increase stride length, leading to more confidence with walking and standing.
Enhanced Cognitive Abilities
Dancing is a fun way to use the brain by memorising steps and movements. These are reinforced by repetition as the dance progresses. Older people will often have past dance routines ‘hard-wired’ into their brains which a familiar piece of music can sometimes unlock – especially in the case of those with a dementia like Alzheimer’s disease.
Done as a group activity, dancing can be huge fun for everyone – the secret is not to take it too seriously and to allow participants to ‘do their own thing’ to the music if they want. The important thing is to get everyone moving and enjoying themselves! To add a sensory element to the fun, why not incorporate some floaty chiffon scarves or feather boas to wave about? Those who are seated or are less enthusiastic about getting up could shake some maracas or tambourines in time to the music.
Dancing activities will almost always lead to further conversation about past experiences, clothes they wore, people they met, food, transport etc. This can be hugely enriching for the residents and relatives alike.
Many local Performing Arts clubs and schools are only too willing to come and practice in front of a live audience. Why not contact your local group and arrange a ‘concert’ for the residents to enjoy; the benefits can be mutual as the dancers/singers get invaluable feedback and the audience will love to see something different.
Activities to Share have a huge range of suitable musical CDs, chiffon scarf sets and play-along percussion instruments, just take a look on our website. Or why not try our Music and Hat Activity Bag set that comes with a range of fun hats and a CD to have fun with.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to…’keep dancing’!
Click below for video of dance session ideas: