Care homes are interesting places, many different people with many different stories with many different needs to meet. So why should the residents be encouraged to dance?
Just to clarify when we say dancing we do not mean exercise to music where clear instructions are given and individuals copy the movements of an instructor. Dance is movement that is devised from feelings and ideas that explores individual movement ranges and responses that can be personally or socially significant.
Exercise to music sessions have great health benefits to residents in care homes but the value of dance should always be considered. Dance can impact positively on people’s health and well-being, provide opportunity for self expression and enhance the quality of relationships between residents and staff. Dance workshops led effectively can encourage non-verbal conversations through movement which particularly benefits those living with Dementia.
‘I love the dancing ,I feel like I am moving parts of my body that I don’t usually move.’
Resident in Hereford Care Home
Dance in care homes is so important because it allows individuals to move in a way that they want to, interact in a different way with other residents and staff and also have the opportunity to reminisce about dancing days gone by.
In fact dance in the UK is a fundamental part of our social history. During World War II the dance hall offered a wartime escape for many people as they dressed up to visit and enjoy the splendour and the ambience of the dance halls and dance their worries away. Many people would have met their spouses at the dance hall and therefore have treasured memories of jumping, jiving and jitterbugging.
‘That piece of music took me right back to dancing at the Albert Hall as a Wren, dancing with American soldiers’.
Resident in Wolverhampton Care Home
Although the reminiscence element of dance is wonderful as it sparks conversation amongst residents dance can also encourage just enjoying the present moment. It is always wonderful when a relation or friend of an individual visits during a dance session and witnesses their loved ones smiling and having good quality experiences.
Sometimes this is not always the case as individuals might have upheld a certain persona in front of their family and friends and may feel silly in participating and this of course is to be respected by the dance practitioner. However moments of mothers and daughters, husbands and wives swaying together, holding hands, happily looking into one another’s eyes can only be described as magical and enhancing the quality of both of their memories of one another.
On occasions care staff may prejudge individual’s ability to partake in a dance session possibly because of their perceptions of what dance is. However dance allows the opportunity for tired, anxious and frail individuals to come to life as their posture changes in their chair to go into a dance hold that they remember. The individuals are encouraged to move as they want to and as long as they are moving safely there is no wrong way. Dance facilitated by the right person can encourage individuals who have limited mobility become energised and full of expression smiling and laughing as they watch others enjoy dancing again and enjoy the sense of touch and connecting with others as well as developing their own sequences.
‘His face absolutely lit up when you started to dance with him, his smile was beaming from ear to ear’.
Activity Coordinator in Hereford Care Home
Next time you think about booking an activity that your residents will enjoy, consider booking a dance workshop. If your objective is engagement and enjoyment and some of the residents join in with a dance workshop then great and if others tap their finger or foot to the music something positive is still happening for that individual in that moment. Challenge your own perceptions of what dance can be and give everyone the opportunity to have the experience because the resident who doesn’t like joining in and the resident who can barely move may just surprise you.