Dancing with dementia

By NZDF. Published on 29/5/2020

A University of Auckland study aims to use dance as a means of combating dementia.

An article from the New Zealand Herald on 29 May 2020 talks with Carlene Newall de Jesus, who is approaching the end of her PhD and is currently a researcher within the university's Dance Studies and Centre for Brain Research. She says says there is already significant evidence that dancing helps people with dementia.

There has been international interest and much research in the link between dance and treating dementia but central questions remain: why and how does dance beneficially impact people with dementia? Newall de Jesus says her PhD and ongoing research is looking at those questions to try and determine which particular types of dance might be most beneficial."What we do know at present is that different types of dancing activities use different parts of the brain," she says, "and that dancing is so valuable to people with dementia."But the real question is which dance is going to give best results and, if we can ever get to the stage where dancing is a prescriptive measure, what sort of dancing works best?"

Her existing work shows that, for dancing to benefit people with dementia, it is not just a matter of a teacher getting up in front of a class copying the moves – like Zumba, for example. She has had some success with what she terms "community dancing" – dance that does not follow prescribed steps, like ballroom dancing, but which merges together creative movement, personal memories, music, expression and socialisation.  It also helps get around the fact many dementia sufferers are hesitant to try new things, particularly those they perceive as difficult – like ballroom dancing, for example.

You can read the full article here


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