Dancing to Better Health

An innovative research project is aiming to help seniors improve physical and mental health through dance.

Two senior patients dance at a gym.

GERAS Dance participants

“GERAS Dance is a program that is geared toward older adults who have early cognitive and mobility challenges,” explains Dr. Courtney Kennedy, Associate Scientific Director of the Geriatric Education and Research in Aging Sciences Centre (GERAS), within the Juravinski Research Centre on Aging. “We are interested in learning whether dance can have lasting effects in terms of improving cognitive health and preventing frailty.”

Mind and body

When the program is fully implemented this spring, classes will be held at 12 different community centres throughout the region.

“Ultimately we are trying to inspire a culture change.”

“When we learn new things, like dance steps, we are exercising our minds,” says Dr. Kennedy. “Dance is also physical exercise, and the hypothesis is that it’s the synergy of exercising the mind and body together, at the same time, that results in the greatest health impacts.”

Maximizing life

Participants also benefit from the social aspect of the program. Research indicates that isolation can have negative physical and cognitive impacts for seniors. Many new friendships have already formed that extend outside of the dance classes.

“Ultimately we are trying to inspire a culture change – the idea that older adults of all abilities should take opportunities to exercise both the mind and body. GERAS Dance is really about maximizing the participation of seniors in daily life.”