Our current population of elderly people were clearly not always elderly. Like all of us, they had a childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. And, also like all of us, they liked having fun. Social dancing was once the best way for young people to go out, have fun, and meet new people.
It may seem impossible to reintroduce the elderly to such a physically demanding activity, but it’s not impossible! Read on to learn more about how wheelchair dancing can benefit elderly people.
The Importance of Dance
The significance of dance in the lives of our current elderly population cannot be overstated. Formal ballroom dancing started heading out the door as an activity reserved for the upper class as the middle class grew. A demand for wholesome entertainment and a way to meet people meant that social dances grew in popularity. From school dances to military balls to club socials, dancing was the activity of choice.
The 1930s and 40s saw the rise of musical films and stage shows. Pop culture icons like Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald were more likely to be singers and dancers as opposed to actors and models alone. The people our grandparents looked up to in their youth brought dance to the general population. Thus, you can probably imagine how much the elderly miss dancing in their old age.
What is Wheelchair Dancing?
To help seniors relive some of their favorite moments from youth, many activity directors in nursing homes have turned to wheelchair dancing. Basically, it is what it sounds like – dancing while in a wheelchair. More fully, it is an adaptive dance that uses elements from dance styles that the elderly probably used years ago: the foxtrot, the waltz, even the tango. Any style of dance can be adapted to suit wheelchair users, but more complicated styles like hip-hop may require more patience and accommodations.
Wheelchair dancing can be done in a few different ways. Group dancing utilizes those in wheelchairs and those who don’t need them. Duo Dancers require two people, each in wheelchairs, that coordinate moves. This dance can also be accomplished with one person in a wheelchair and one person without. Finally, a single dancer can freestyle dance moves in their own wheelchair alone.
The Benefits of Wheelchair Dancing
The benefits of wheelchair dancing are many. Here’s what you can expect your seniors to experience while dancing.
- Better Health. Dancing, even in a wheelchair, is great exercise. It involves both cardio and strength elements, so it’s a pretty good activity to maintain health. Specifically, it will help seniors manage their weight, since they’ll be burning calories, and build muscle tone. The increase in muscle tone will also discourage bone disease. Blood pressure will also be decreased.
- Improve Mood. Bringing back an enjoyable activity to the lives of people who no longer feel physically capable can make a huge difference in mood. Wheelchair dancing can also re-establish a sense of normalcy in their lives. Added into a daily or weekly routine, wheelchair dancing can also be something they look forward to.
- Help Memory. Allowing the elderly to hear songs they are familiar with and do dances they used to do can help inhibit memory loss. Physical effort has been shown to help patients maintain long-term memories.
- Better Brain Function. Physical activity helps everyone experience better brain function. The increased blood flow to the brain encourages more mental movement and flexibility. This can decrease the effects of age on the brain.
As our parents and grandparents age, it is crucial that we help them live as best as they can even in their old age. Reintroducing dance by way of wheelchair dancing can be incredibly helpful for the elderly population to regain a bit of control over their lives.