Mexican street dance could help fight the symptoms of dementia
Danzn originated in England in the 17th century and is still popular in Mexico todayCare home residents who tried out the dance were less anxious and apathetic
16:03 GMT, 31 August 2012
A Mexican street dance is putting a spring back in the step of British dementia patients.
Twice-weekly sessions of Danzn, Latin ballroom-style dance, improved the mood and behaviour of care home residents.
Processing and practising the simple-to-follow steps, enjoying the music and having fun with others also reduced apathy and agitation, both of which are usually treated with powerful drugs.
People dance Danzon in the main square of Oaxaca, Mexico. Doing the steps improved the mood of care home residents in the UK
Researcher Guzmn Garca, who knew the dance from growing up in Mexico, said: ‘I found that these dance classes helped calm agitation and improved mood and quality of life for people with dementia.
‘There are also obvious advantages in terms of physical fitness.
‘I witnessed the joy people got from taking part in the dancing and for residents who were watching, the laughter and happy memories it generated.’
Danzn originated in England in the 17th century and was popular in Jane Austin’s era before becoming fashionable in France, Haiti and, finally, Latin America.
It is still popular in Mexico today, with older adults in particular enjoying impromptu dance sessions on the streets.
Staff at the Rosewood Villa Residential Home in Newcastle, said that the patients found the 30-minute sessions mentally stimulating and quickly became immersed in the activity.
The classes, which formed part of Dr Garca’s PhD at Newcastle University, were so successful that carers now sometimes use a ‘little Danzn in the corridor’ to help patients unwind.
Staff at the Rosewood Villa Residential Home in Newcastle said residents found the dance mentally stimulating
Mary Watson, the home’s owner, said: ‘We could see how much people enjoyed the dancing and it brought back some lovely memories which they were able to share with us of when they were younger.
‘We found that the men wanted to join in with the dancing and this is important to us as it can be harder to find activities that they want to take part in.
‘On the days when the dancing was on, the men made an effort to dress smartly and told us how they were looking forward to it which was really nice.’
Resident Hilda Dumbarton, 92 said: ‘I enjoy everything about the dancing.
‘I was the youngest of a large family and most of us danced. I love dancing – I met my husband dancing and he was very good – it brings back happy memories.’
Dr Ian James, who supervised the study published in the journal Dementia, said: ‘The Danzn activity was enjoyed by both the residents and staff and improved the communication between the two groups.
‘Reductions in residents’ agitation and apathy were also seen, which is noteworthy because often these conditions are treated with medications known to have highly problematic side-effects.’
Dr Garca said: ‘I would encourage all care homes to consider structured and regular dance sessions because of the benefits it brings in terms of behaviour and social interaction which means it can be considered positive for dementia care.’