Dancing benefits the elderly in many ways both physically and mentally. In this study, elderly people who dance improve their motor skills and more. This activity is something that can be a part of any elderly person’s day when modified to meet the specific person or population.
Aging is a part of life, but that does not mean people must experience physical and cognitive decline as a result. There are many ways to fight such a decline, and one of the most delightful is dancing! This type of activity is becoming popular because of the many body areas it impacts positively. In a six-month study following a group of elderly people who took part in a one-hour-a-week dance class, the following positive changes were noted as to how dancing benefits the elderly:
- Better posture
- Quicker reaction times
- More agility
- Sharper minds
- Better overall sense of well being
Dancing helped the elderly people in the study improve their motor skills and balance too. There were no deleterious cardio-respiratory effects.
The risks of the aging population
Today’s aging population is facing a great number of risks, but people are also more in control of their health through the wide availability of medical information. For example, it is known that an elderly person who sits around the house, engages in few physical or cognitive activities, and neglects his or her diet is going to age much less gracefully than the person that stays active both physically and cognitively and eats right.
Dancing is now known to be a way seniors can keep themselves well-tuned on multiple levels. This simple, universal activity is easily accessed and has a social element in that people of all ages and cultures enjoy dancing.
How dancing benefits the elderly
Dance affects many areas of the body, including the brain. The combination of cognitive coordination with the muscles is like a complete workout inside out. A dancing person’s brain must cooperate with the muscles to create what is called muscle memory, allowing the person to move fluidly. Regular practice of this hobby can help minimize the risk of cognitive decline as a person ages.
In fact, some studies even show that regular dancing can limit the amount of dizziness a person feels, which is another concern regarding the aging population. A study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex showed that ballet dancers have a lower likelihood of experiencing dizziness due to suppressed signals in their inner ear. This does not mean that an elderly person needs formal ballet training, but achieving better balance and reducing dizziness through dancing is preventive of damaging falls.
Overall, dance gives the brain and body healthy stimulation. As blood is pumped to the brain by the physical activity, the brain functions better overall. In addition, with such brain stimulation, there is a lower likelihood of cognitive decline
Dancing is fun and invigorating at the same time; it provides elderly people with exercise for the body combined with the cognitive stimulation they need in order to stay “sharp.”
Bone health is enhanced
As an added way that dancing benefits the elderly, the constant moving that dancing requires can help to enhance bone health, the decline of which is another risk of aging. With constant stimulation, the bone cells continually turn over, which means less frailty and fewer broken bones. Elderly people who lead a sedentary life or even those who only utilize the effects of walking or minor exercises will experience more bone loss and frailty than those who participate in something as vigorous and stimulating as dancing.
Should elderly people be hitting the night clubs every night in order to stay young? Luckily, the answer is no! The study followed a group of elderly people who took a dance class for a mere one hour a week; that is all it took for them to experience the better posture, quicker reaction times, and sharper minds that dancing confers. That is less activity than is generally recommended for anyone to stay healthy, let alone people of advanced age.
If an elderly loved one has any desire to dance, family members do well to encourage him or her to participate, whether in organized classes or just dancing at home with a loved one or alone. The physical and cognitive activity will help them stay spry physically and mentally, furthering the quality of life in the golden years.
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Kattenstroth, J-C., Kalisch, T., Holt, S., Tegenthoff, M., Dinse, H. R. (February 26, 2013). Six months of dance intervention enhances postural, sensorimotor, and cognitive performance in the elderly without affecting cardio-respiratory functions. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Retrieved from http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnagi.2013.00005/full. Accessed on July 25, 2016.
Nigmatullina, Y., Hellyer, P. J., Nachev, P., Sharp, D. J., Seemungal, B.M. (2015). The Neuroanatomical Correlates of Training-Related Perceptuo-Reflex Uncoupling in Dancers. Cerebral Cortex, 25(2): 554-562. Oxford Journals. Retrieved from http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/09/24/cercor.bht266. Accessed on July 25, 2016.