We have been lucky enough to see how dance can benefit those living with dementia first hand. The power of music should never be under estimated as it has the potential to bring back memories and ultimately create new ones. For those living with Dementia the combination of music dance and movement can ensure that they experience something quite special.
When working with older adults our sessions are led non verbally so that ultimately each session is fail free as individuals are encouraged to join in as and when they want and with their own interpretation of dance and movement. For individuals with dementia this ensures that any element of anxiety is removed and they are not confused by language.
Our experience of working in care homes, nursing homes, dementia cafes and dementia wards in hospitals has given us the opportunity to witness the brightest of moments of how dance can positively impact the life for those living with dementia.
At one dementia café we delivered a session at, a husband and wife attended, the husband had dementia. When they arrived the husband had no idea of whom his wife was, he sat next to her and repeatedly asked who she was. It was so incredibly sad to watch. The music came on and he joined in clapping his hands and smiling but still not interacting with his wife who sat next to him. Towards the end of the workshop we started to dance to New York with glittery bowler hats, he turned to his wife and said ‘we used to play this song when we used to have house parties, it was always the last song that we played’. His wife was elated to be back in her husband’s world and for a moment the couple were reunited.
In one care home we visited one resident was 104 years old and living with dementia, her conversations were repetitive and incoherent but as soon as the music started to play it was like she came alive. Moving her arms and shoulders, tapping her foot swaying from side to side, laughing as she watched colourful scarves float around and finding a new way to express herself through dancing.
On a hospital ward a gentleman entered the space anxious and upset and wandered back out. As the music started to play he walked back in the room and started to dance in the corner with a healthcare assistant, moving and shaking his hips and lifting his arms awaiting an applause every time the song ended. He was completely lost in dancing changing his movement quality to reflect the music playing. After the session he became upset and anxious again but he had had an opportunity to escape his reality.
Each time we deliver a workshop new memories are created and many individuals delight in the opportunity to dance and of course reminisce about dancing days gone by. It is always our pleasure to help facilitate such moments and to have the opportunity to see first-hand how dance makes such a positive impact for those living with dementia. Foe us everyone’s a dancer.