Tag Archives: social

Do You Hear the Music? Dance!

I love our new home on the east coast. There are a lot of amazing attractions and amenities that were not available on the west coast – most notably, our grandchildren. In spite of the fact that we are transitioning nicely into our new world, and yes, culture, there are people and events that take place back home that cause a bit of homesickness. (Hint: it has to do with the word dance)

Near the top of our ‘favorite annual events’ list is the ‘Almond Blossom Ball’ (6 p.m., Saturday, February 10, 2018, at Ridgeway Park) held by the Whittenberg Country School every February.

Wayne and I enjoy a dance at the Almond Blossom Ball.
Wayne and I enjoy a dance at the Almond Blossom Ball.

It is a fundraiser for the school’s arts program. The semi-formal evening is a family-friendly delight filled with dancing and desserts. A photo booth provides a memorial of the lovely almond blossom themed event.

Dancing, it turns out provides many benefits. Of course the most obvious is the physical exercise but its value waltzes way past that. According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may be one of the best means of actually avoiding Alzheimer’s. Dr. Joe Verghese, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, followed elderly subjects over a 21-year period to determine which activities most resulted in dementia resistance.

The study revealed the usual list of suspects such as doing crossword puzzles and reading did show a 47% & 35% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, but the results from golfing, swimming or bike riding produced an unexpected 0% lower risk. The biggest surprise of the study was that social interaction of dancing lowered the seniors’ risk of dementia by a staggering 76%.  Wow! Sorta makes you want to do the happy dance.

Another study, this one published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, has similar results. It revealed that dancing causes the part of the brain called the hippocampus, a region crucial for memory to grow larger. The study also indicated that dancing improved balance in the elderly.

What happens when we dance?

It turns out, the need for cooperation between two dancers, with one leading and the other following causes the type of quick decision-making process that makes the brain more resilient.  For best results, the dancers need to learn new dances (rather than just doing the same steps over and over) and the more the better.

There seems to be something beneficial when our brains are called upon to move in a required format while at the same time being aware of everything going on around you (so dancers don’t bump into each other). Dancing is also a very social activity; the positive effects of being social have been well known for some time. It becomes especially powerful when combined with music – which is another factor in dementia resistance, associated with dancing.

Spouses who dance together may, over the years be actually watching out for one another’s well-being in a fun way. Dance clubs and senior centers offer opportunities for both couples and singles to learn new dances in a social setting.

Listen, do you hear the music? What are you waiting for? It’s time to dance!

Swimming through life

My Mama has always loved the water – she was born in Duluth, Minnesota. The state motto on their license plate is: “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” so needless to say, there was plenty of water available for swimming.finishing_well-in-life-fish
Even after the onset of dementia, Mama loved to be in the water. We had a membership at the local wellness center that offered an indoor pool, so we took her there as often as possible. However, since we couldn’t trust her to always remember how to swim, we had Mama wear floatation devices on her arms and restricted her water activity to walking back and forth in the pool. Since Mama had diabetes, I also had to keep in mind that her activity could cause her blood sugar levels to drop, so I carried small packets of honey with me at all times.

I was happy to read a wonderful article recently that seemed to confirm the benefits of swimming in spite of dementia – Dementia Friendly Swimming Lessons make a difference  It tells about an  86-year-old man who swims regularly to help him live well with dementia. His wife Jean says,  “It’s made a big difference. He likes being in the water, it seems to relax Fred. He’s happier and it makes a difference in his temper not only while he’s swimming but for the rest of the day.”

That observation agrees with a research article in the ©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine that suggests people swim every day to keep dementia away.

Prevention Magazine includes swimming as part of an overall strategy to help prevent dementia. They outline a variety of steps, their motto is: “Do ’em every day, keep memory loss at bay”

If someone is a swimmer prior to a diagnosis of dementia, it should still be a viable option for them as long as proper precautions are taken to ensure their safety.
As an additional benefit, swimming or walking in the water can help with maintaining balance.

Sometimes, when suggesting an activity, your loved one might indicate that they do not want to participate, but by responding with sensitivity to their feelings and encouragement, you might just help them to have a very pleasant experience in the water. Here is a video of a 94 Year Old Alzheimer’s Patient, Dotty, who goes to the Swimming Pool (VIDEO)

Mama’s trips to the pool lasted until the day came when she was no longer able to walk. I believe that they added to her quality of life and general well-being. If swimming or walking are options at all, they may be worth exploring.