“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
~ Pablo Picasso
The same holds true for dancers. When we are children and hear music, we express our joy by dancing – unabashedly dancing. No one has told us that we aren’t dancing correctly, and no one has yet trampled our joy in this simple expression.
Then we grow up and we gain a sense of fear at what people may think of us if we dance—if our expression of joy somehow isn’t perfect.
Then we grow old, and, in many ways, we become childlike once more. And that can be a wonderful transformation when it comes to experiencing delight again.
A few weeks ago at Woodland Ridge Assisted Living, we were able to witness the childlike, unabashed joy of our senior dancers at our first annual Dancing with the Senior Stars event. The event was a huge success in so many ways. Participants were all residents in either the assisted living or memory care neighborhood at Woodland Ridge. Some have mobility challenges. Some have memory issues.
The music and the excitement of dancing with a caregiver whom they know and trust overcame all those challenges. Residents in wheelchairs and on walkers danced. Residents who may not remember how to get dressed without help danced. One participant had just returned from a hospital stay a few hours earlier! And it was beautiful. Their smiles and their laughter, along with the smiles and laughter of their families in the audience, were priceless.
Music has long been used as an integral part of therapy, including therapies for engaging people with dementia. Experts who have studied the use of music therapy conclude that music evokes emotions and memories and provides a temporary reprieve for those suffering from dementia. Music can improve a dementia patient’s mood, can help alleviate pain, and can stimulate not only brain function, but can also inspire movement—a dance of some sort, whether the tapping of a patient’s feet to the rhythm or using the arms and legs as well to dance.
Music – and dance – is a remarkable art form in that it can maintain and even improve quality of life. As one anonymous person puts it, “Every time I dance, I turn into a better version of me.” What a special privilege it was to witness that transformation for the residents at Woodland Ridge.