This cute couple in this picture is both my parents having too much fun dancing at our wedding. I don’t remember much of that evening but I clearly remember them stealing the show on the dance floor. And because of them, I am a truly believer in Dance Therapy for elderly people as a way of getting seniors back on their feet – and the dance floor. As I learned with them, the benefits of dancing for seniors go beyond the physical, they are emotional and mental too. And this goes not only for dancing, but for any other physical activity that is social as well.
But how to convince parents into dancing? Dancing, and other similar activities, works wonders for seniors. So the best way to convince seniors to try out is to talk, talk and talk. But it all depends on how you talk to them. It’s not any kind of conversation: be persuasive, get into the point but listen to them and respect their willing.
In this post I will give you some tips on how to talk to seniors so they can listen, and also how to hear them back and take what they say into consideration.
Dance Therapy for Seniors
It’s a fact: physical inactivity is commonly observed among individuals aged 60 y and older.
Although many older adults have positive attitudes toward physical activity and its benefits, there are some barriers they find to be active. Things such as the person who is recommending physical activity, pre-existing medical conditions, the senior’s environment, low self-efficacy, costs of activities, time constraints, physical limitations, and safety concerns definitely affect their behaviors regarding physical activity.
Meanwhile, the harmful effects resulting from physical inactivity and the positive effects of physical activity suggest that further efforts are needed to encourage activity, with an emphasis on populations at high risk for inactivity.
What Health Conditions can be Preventing by Convincing Seniors into Dancing?
Physical inactivity contributes to many health conditions, including:
- Coronary heart disease,
- Cerebrovascular disorders,
- Circulatory diseases,
Fortunately, adding physical activity to one’s life is an effective method of preventing, controlling, and alleviating these health conditions.
What are the Positive Effects of Dancing on Seniors?
Studies have demonstrated that physical activity has positive effects on:
- Heart failure,
Studies on the Benefits of Dance Therapy for Seniors
Dance therapy is a creative arts therapy that has been defined by the American Dance Therapy Association as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration of the individual.” So in other words, dancing can improve the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of individuals.
More related to seniors, qualitative studies show that aesthetic forms of expression build passion. It can also contribute to older adults’ physical, intellectual, and social development.
Besides, cross-sectional studies reveal that older adults who dance on a regular basis have greater flexibility, postural stability, balance, physical reaction time, and cognitive performance than older adults who do not dance on a regular basis.
Furthermore, other articles suggest that unlike other holistic approaches used to increase physical activity, dance includes an aesthetic form of artistic expression.
Also, dancing can produce physical results comparable with those of formal exercise training. It also has been found to improve social and behavioral factors, such as self-motivation, according to some interesting articles I read about it.
Additionally, dancing has the advantage of being highly adaptable to each senior needs and can be adjusted to fit a target populations age as well as some of their physical limitations. And it also has the potential to be an extremely attractive physical activity.
In conclusion, seniors should do some type of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, according to FamilyDoctor.org. And as stated on Livestrong website, dancing is an effective way to add aerobic exercise to your weekly routine.
5 Dance Classes Seniors Should Try
Kendal at Home website made a great list of some dance classes that will give your parents a chance to have fun and cut loose while getting a beneficial workout.
What is it: Zumba is a very trendy cardio workout class that bills itself as a dance party, created on 1999. Rather than endless miles on the treadmill, your parents can work up a sweat while enjoying a group dance session with an instructor.
Low-impact option for beginners: There are classic, fast-paced Zumba classes, as well as other options, including low-impact and water-based Zumba classes, to accommodate all fitness levels and abilities. Besides, if your parents prefer, they can also use one of the many Zumba exercise tapes and video games current available on the market.
What is it: When it comes to dancing for fitness, Jazzercise was one of the originals, dated from 1969. Modern classes involve a dance routine that combines elements of yoga and kickboxing for a full-body workout.
Low-impact option for beginners: There are low-impact and litefitness class options for Jazzercise for those just getting started with the fitness favorite.
3. Ballet (Barre Exercise)
What is it: Ballet-based Barre classes are quickly becoming popular in the U.S.
Low-impact option for beginners: These classes take some of the moves mastered by ballet dancers and apply them to a workout. These classes don’t have a lot of jumping or bouncing they focus on controlled movements to tone muscle and build flexibility.
4. Ballroom Dance
What is it: You might not find ballroom dance classes at your local gym and these are awesome classes to either go with a partner or meet new people. In other words, it can be fun to know these dances and it’s great for socialization! Learning how to foxtrot, waltz, or tango is great exercise that builds your balance and agility.
Low-impact option for beginners: They are not considered “aerobic” classes, but they’re a good workout none-the-less.
5. Square Dancing
What is it: One special thing about square dancing is that it’s a tight-knit community. That means that it’s also great for socialization. Square dancers often say that square dancing is Friendship set to Music. It is a dance for four couples (eight dancers in total) arranged in a square, with one couple on each side, facing the middle of the square. Partners dance while a caller tells them what moves they should do next. There are clubs everywhere that meet weekly for fun and dancing so once your parents learn how to square dance, the community will likely keep them moving.
Low-impact option for beginners: This country style of dance can be fast moving, so it’s a good cardio workout.
Just Dance Video Game Series for Seniors
So if your Mom or Dad prefer to dance in the privacy of their own home, they don’t even need to check out their local community center or a gym for dance exercise classes that are specifically for seniors. Apart from Zumba videos already mentioned above, there are many other dance exercise DVDs that they can use at home.
And if they want to feel even more integrated (and actually have fun while dancing, there are also a series of Just Dance video game that could fit them perfectly.
These are rhythm games released on the Nintendo Wii in 2009 and they‘ve been getting new versions every year since then. Nowadays they are not only available on the Nintendo Wii, but also on Xbox and PlayStation, and there are other dance video games like these as well – although these keep being “a classic”. In other words, they have a huge variety of songs on these dance video games for any taste of music.
What is it: Just Dance (the same goes to other dance video games as well) is a motion-based dancing game for multiple players, with each game including a collection of songs each with their own dance choreographies. During each song, players mirror a dance performed by actors on the screen, following commands that appear on the screen, and are awarded for their accuracy. Additionally, there are gold moves in which players must strike a pose in order to earn bonus points. Players are given ranks based on how well they do.
10 Tips on How to Convince Seniors Into Dancing?
1. Pick your battles: Decide how important this matter is
If your Mom or Dad has a lifelong habit you don’t like, and it’s not getting in the way of safety, I would say for you to forget about this battle. But dancing – or any other physical activity – is something that would improve their health, and their quality of life all together.
The one who never got along with Mom or Dad may not be the best person to bring the subject up. You have to choose any ally you can find including friends and those outside the family. Besides, try the conversation during a time of day when Mom or Dad is most likely to be amenable, like after their favorite meal when they are feeling full and happy.
2. Use humor
If we can find a way to get our parent to smile or laugh at all, about anything related to dancing, we’re a step ahead. Sure fire tactic.
I once even started going to dancing classes with my mom and I would do all sort of weird movements in front of the mirror during classes. It was a fun way of us spending time together and at the same time, making her moving a little. Thus, the immediate “laughterglow” of sharing something a little funny is perfect for breaking down resistance.
3. Always put the need for change on you, not on your parents
When you want your parents to make some kind of change, make it our problem and take all the blame.
If we’re trying to get Mom or Dad to accept that they need to do some kind of physical activity and, at the same time, be more socially engaged, think about pitching it as your need, not theirs.
4. Use the “yes-and” technique
This is something mediators use all the time to redirect conversations. When someone disagrees with them, instead of saying, “that’s not true, you nitwit”, they choose another response. So you can acknowledge what your senior just said with the words, “Yes”, followed by “and” followed by whatever is the contrary thought.
This does not work every time or for everything. Your parents can choose misery over starting some physical/social activity if they are determined enough, but you’ve got to try.
5. Be very informative to them about the benefits of doing a physical/social activity
Be more targeted and informative about physical/social benefits. For instance, you can say that dance provides health benefits for those 65 and older, improving short-term memory through memorization of steps, maintaining heart health through physical activity and providing brain stimulation through socialization.
You can also say that dance helps with flexibility and coordination, which reduces the risk of falling.
Besides, regardless of its style, dance can significantly improve muscular strength and endurance, balance, and other aspects of functional fitness in older adults.
6. Give some successful examples
Talk about other seniors doing this kind of activity. There are tons of posts on Internet about how dancing have changed people’s lives, including some testimonials from seniors.
While I was researching for this post, I read an article about a 70 year old lady that takes dance classes and thinks that dancing “is a joy”, talking about the happiness that it brings to you. In addition, she was explaining how she can see herself “moving differently, thinking a little bit differently and being emotionally more open.” At the end, she added that although sometimes she may feel her body shrinking, dancing helps her to have a better posture and a better breathing”. And above all, she feels “younger”. Let your Mom or Dad know about these kind of stories.
7. Think ahead
Is there a milestone they want to be around for, such as an anniversary, graduation or wedding? Then bring it up! And Tell your Mom or Dad how nice it would be if they were able to dance more gracefully during the ceremony.
8. Treat them like the adults they are
Be careful to not infantilizing parents. After all, dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Besides, older people should be autonomous.
9. Try to understand the motivation behind their behavior
Are your parents acting this way out of habit, to assert independence, or because they’re depressed or confused? And what are they afraid of? So try to understand from where they come from.
10. Be insistent, try everything but be aware when to stop insisting
Even if you fail at some things, it’s a lot easier to take if you know you tried your hardest to help them. Besides, there is no need to feel guilty if you gave it your all.
And maybe, just maybe, your parents will give dancing a try and I guarantee that they can have as much fun as my parents when they hit the dance floor. After all, who can resist my mom’s happy face while dancing with dad on my wedding? See it for yourself!
*Always check with your doctor prior to beginning any new diet or fitness program.
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