I Like to Move It, Move It: Dance Therapy for the Elderly
DMT or Dance/Movement Therapy, according to the American Dance Therapy Association, is defined as the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process which furthers the emotional, cognitive and physical integration of the individual.
Dance, contrary to popular notions, is not only restricted to those who have lithe limbs and graceful body movements; neither is it supposed to be only for those who have mastered the art form. The line Anybody Can Dance (ABCD) holds true for each and every individual of our society. And dance therapy has been recognized as one of the most effective ways to address various types of physical, mental and emotional conditions.
While it may sound like a foolish idea to tell people in their 60s, 70s or 80s to pursue this art, but dance therapy is considered a great movement activity for elders across the world. It is seen as a stimulating physical activity that has multi-pronged benefits. Let us look at some of the key advantages of dance therapy for senior citizens.
11 Benefits of Dance/Movement Therapy for the Elderly
• Increased self-awareness
Any kind of movement in itself is a very basic and common mode of expressing oneself or one’s needs. This type of therapy, then, takes it one-step further and enables individuals to be more self-aware.
• Improved self-confidence
Post-retirement, several seniors get stuck in a rut, isolating themselves from the rest of the world and feeling lonely and low. Dance can help them find their charm back and build confidence.
• Feeling better about one’s body
Most people aren’t proud of their bodies. Movement and dance therapy will help them rediscover their body image and improve their movements gradually, leaving them with higher self-esteem.
• Less stress
Learning a dance form has proven to improve individuals’ state of mind, reducing anxiety and stress, and improving their vital signs.
• Encouraging non-verbal communication
We mentioned that specific movements can convey emotions and messages, and dance can help take it to the next level by enabling individuals to refine their non-verbal communication skills. This creative expression can inspire a greater level of effective communication and also indirectly contribute to bolstering interpersonal and dynamic group relationships.
• Physically fit, physically fit!
The song from the film Madagascar makes so much sense in this case! It basically talks about the physical benefits of dancing. Those who indulge in dance sessions are more likely to experience improvement in body balance, muscle strength, and joint flexibility even during old age.
The physical activity automatically helps create and release endorphins, thus helping you relax and feel calmer in your everyday life.
• Emotional wellbeing
Dancing is closely related to the emotional wellbeing of a person. The motion-emotion connection helps you get rid of anxiety, depression, frustration, fear, and pressure, making you emotionally sound.
• Cognitive and intellectual wellbeing
Dance or movement therapy, when delivered systematically, can result in improved cognitive abilities.
• Social wellbeing
Imagine signing up for a dance class for group therapy, where you get to meet and interact with a variety of people from your age group. This can become a place for making new friends, developing social skills. And you never know, you might become part of a group with whom you can enjoy various other activities too.
• Enhanced motor skills
Although we already touched upon the physical benefits, motor functioning is another area where dance can really help, especially in the case of the elderly.
People with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, learning difficulties and several other physical, emotional and mental conditions or disorders have benefitted vastly from dance therapy.
But it is not just recommended for those who need therapy – dance, as we mentioned earlier, is for everyone! You can either scout for a local dance studio in your vicinity or hire a professional personal dance trainer, depending on your needs and desires. From Bollywood dancing to salsa and from Zumba to aerobic dancing, the options are plenty! We believe group therapy works best in case of senior citizens since the presence of people from the same age group adds to the element of fun and healthy competition.
And who knows, you might even end up mastering one dance form if you pursue it long enough!