When our oldest granddaughter was around two years old, her favorites things were strawberries, swinging, and ‘dance-dance-2’. The dance program was a video game that included a dance pad. The idea was to watch the TV screen and place your feet where the animated characters placed theirs. Some friends of mine and I discovered it when volunteering at our church’s youth group. Watching the kids play the game, we saw how much fun it was, and what a great form of exercise it offered.
Each one of us ended up getting our own game. It really was a blast. Of course, I was much younger back then and could more easily keep up with the continuous stream of arrows scrolling across the screen. Our granddaughter also loved it! Nearly every time she came to visit, she would say, “dance, dance!”, and hold two fingers up like a ‘peace sign’.
I recently came across a clinical study carried out in Belgium by an international team of researchers that suggested cognitive motor training can improve both the cognitive and physical skills of significantly impaired people with dementia.
After the eight-week training period, the results showed a significant difference between those who participated in the exercise as opposed to the control group. Cognitive skills, such as attention, concentration, memory, and orientation of those who trained with the exergame improved. The partakers also experienced considerably less symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, those in the control group deteriorated further during the same time frame.
Reading the article brought to mind the enjoyable memories of our ‘season of dancing’. The researchers used something called an exergame. It was reminiscent of the one we used in the past. This one, however, had safety bars to hold on to for the protection of the dancer. The combination of engaging your mind on the screen as well as keeping your focus on the periphery – all taking place under a time constraint seems to be a powerful combination.
Dancing not only activity to offers this benefit
Several years ago, my husband was a tour bus driver. Occasionally, he would take a bus full of (usually) ladies to a Bingo night event. Those Bingo enthusiasts were serious players. The trip took a few hours, but the bingo games began in earnest as soon as the first passengers were on the bus. They played bingo all the way to their destination, played for several hours at the bingo hall, and continued the game all the way back on the bus to where their journey began.
At one point he noticed the most fascinating thing; these ladies were sharp! If someone missed a number, and called out, “What was that last number?” several began to recite a long string of recent numbers that had been called. Did I happen to mention that most of them were well over age 65? It turns out that bingo offers the same combination of mental engagement as well as keeping your focus on the periphery – in their case, it was the multiples of bingo cards laid out in front of each one and spotting the numbers before the next one is called.
Simply dancing – without the video game can offer its own benefits. The need to follow the beat of the music while stepping in a certain pattern – all while taking care not to bump into anyone or anything else is a great place to begin. All it would take is some favorite music and a little floor space and voila! you can ‘dance, dance’ too!
Remembering how much fun the dancing game was, I began to wonder if we still had our game hiding in a container somewhere. I checked out some boxes in our attic to see if we still had it. I found the dance pad, but not the part that connects to the TV. Rats. I may have to start looking for that on eBay.
Has your world been touched by dementia?
My book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find joy on your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook