Whether it’s the fox-trot, a waltz, disco or tap, dance is positive all-around for older adults. That’s why it’s a regular part of the program at Fairfax County’s Adult Day Health Care Centers.
Dancing is unique because it requires us to simultaneously move and think, all while taking social queues from our partner and others on the dance floor, said Kimberly Warner, Recreation Therapist at Mount Vernon Adult Day Health Care Center.
There is perhaps no other physical activity that engages the mind, the body and the heart all the same time in this way. Our participants love dancing and listening to music.
The Mount Vernon Adult Day Health Care Center is particularly special because of its resident dancer, Reiko Florl.
Reiko studied dance and performed professionally. She enjoys ballet, tap, jazz, and traditional Japanese dances, said Kimberly. Reiko, 84, has been a participant at the center for over two years.
Reiko is known to break-out into a shimmy with her friends at the center, including her frequent dance partner, Peter Donovan. She also leads the participants in tai chi and other stretching exercises. In honor of Heart Month, the Mount Vernon Center is hosting a special dance for participants.
Reiko will be the first one on the floor — we can always count on her to lead the party! said Kimberly.
While dancing is a fun and healthy activity for older adults, Kimberly cautions that it is important to be mindful of safety.
Falls are always a concern, so make sure your dance activity is structured to meet the varying physical needs of the adults participating.
Here are Kimberly’s recommendations for safe dance practices:
- Clear the space, and make sure the floor is flat and even: It goes without saying that you need room to move, but just the slightest uneven floor can cause a fall for an older person.
- Structure the dance: Bring in a dance teacher or guide the dance yourself. Doing so eases confusion and increases enjoyment.
- Adapt to the capability of the dancers: Give dancers options for movement to ensure everyone can participate. Some (like Reiko) can tango, some can square dance — but everyone can do the chicken dance!
- Remember you don’t need to stand: For those older adults who do not like to stand for long periods of time, it’s just as easy to structure seated dance options.
- Have fun!
Kimberly Warner has been the Recreation Therapist at Mount Vernon Adult Day Health Care for over 14 years. She says watching program participants tap their toes, dance and sing is one of her favorite things about her job.