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Dance explored as a way to increase brain function for Alzheimers clients – with inspiring results

Submitted by on April 20, 2015 – 4:07 pm

AACT dance project 1An Alzheimers Auckland socialisation project has investigated the role dance could play for people with dementia.

Twelve Alzheimers Auckland clients recently completed a six-week dance project with Three Kings resident Carlene Newall and a group of postgraduate Dance Studies students from the University of Auckland.

Physical exercise, socialisation and working with others as well as problem solving, creative thinking, memorizing and recalling movement, and interacting with music were all incorporated into dance activities.

The 12 participants, people living with dementia aged between 51 and 75, attended Wellesley Studios, Auckland CBD to dance and explore movement. Sessions explored ways of creating and performing movement in a variety of fun and interactive ways. The dance students partnered up with Alzheimers Auckland clients, engaging with them to work through the choreographic exercises set by Carlene for stimulating creative movement, and sharing their experience and training.

AACT dance project 2

The sessions allowed for the class to dance together to familiar music hits from the past, allowing the people living with dementia an opportunity to bring their life experience to the students. 

Dance sessions were filled with laughter and fun, and were followed by time for cold drinks, biscuits, and socialisation. Carlene shares, “It was a great group of people and such a positive experience; it was wonderful to see the new personal connections that developed between participants and the friendships that formed”.

People living with dementia can be hesitant to try new things and sometimes have let go of hobbies and social connections that enhanced their life for many years. The people involved in this project were able to engage in a socially interactive activity that was intellectually and physically challenging. Carlene says, “I’m sure many of the participants were nervous about what to expect going into the project but it was brilliant to see people being so brave and open-minded”.

The project was a collaborative effort between Alzheimers Auckland, The University of Auckland Dance Studies Programme, and Wellesley Studios thanks to support from the Gavin and Susan Walker Postgraduate Scholarship in Dance Studies.

Working on this project with Alzheimers Auckland has even contributed to Carlene’s continued research in the field of dance and dementia. She is now embarking on the next stage of her research; a PhD at the University of Auckland.

Participation in dance provides a unique combination of activities and experiences for those involved, something which Alzheimers Auckland looks for across their range of socialisation services.  And while this project was about dance and dementia, the most lasting impact was the mutual exchange of respect and friendship between participants.

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