Mexican street dance could help fight the symptoms of dementia

On September 27, 2012 by MexicoToday

Mexican researcher Guzmán García, believes the famous Mexican ballroom-style dance, Danzón, can help to fight symptoms of dementia which are usually treated with powerful drugs. Twice-weekly sessions of Danzón improved the mood and behaviour of care home residents at the Rosewood Villa Residential Home in Newcastle, England. Garcia asserts that similar structured dance will prove ‘positive’ for dementia care.

Although Danzón is fairly simple, the level of coordination required helps to stimulate brain activity. Processing and practising the steps, enjoying the music and having fun with others reduced apathy and agitation according to care home workers. Dr Ian James, who supervised the study published in the journal Dementia, believes the activity also helped to improve communication between residents and care workers.

Danzón 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. The dance is now commonly associated with Mexican culture.

Guzmán García 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.”

Danzón remains a popular form of street dance in Mexico today, with older adults in particular enjoying impromptu dance sessions on the streets. Staff at the Rosewood Villa Residential Home 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 García’s PhD at Newcastle University, were so successful that carers now sometimes use a ‘little Danzón in the corridor’ to help patients unwind.

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.”

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