GERAS: Dancing for Cognition and Exercise (DANCE) for Frail Seniors

Award Date: 2018

Project Lead(s): Alexandra Papaioannou, Director GERAS Centre, and Courtney Kennedy, Associate Scientific Director GERAS Centre

Project Title: GERAS Dancing for Cognition and Exercise (DANCE): A Mind-Body Health Platform for Frail Seniors

What is the issue?

Exercising the body and the mind together benefits physical and cognitive health.  Seniors with cognitive and mobility limitations may not get enough opportunities to exercise to experience these benefits. Physical, mental, and social stimulation are important to reverse or prevent further declines. 

Rehabilitation and geriatric medicine specialists at the GERAS Centre for Aging Research at Hamilton Health SciencesMcMaster University developed GERAS DANCE (Dancing for Cognition and Exercise) using evidence from the latest research. GERAS DANCE is a standardized program for adults over the age of 60 with early cognitive and mobility issues.  

What did we do?

We expanded the program with additional products and services and tested it in 12 YMCA locations in Hamilton, Halton and the Niagara region. Our goal was to help seniors remain active and socially connected to the community. We trained dance instructors using an interactive training platform. More than 30 instructors became certified. A total of 281 older adults participated in one-hour dance programs twice a week. They learned and practiced ballroom-style dance steps and routines in both seated and standing positions

What did we find?

After only three months, participants showed improvements in the areas of balance, walking speed, and lower extremity strength. They also showed some initial improvements in cognitive function. Participants reported making new friendships and connecting with others outside of classes.