Live music and dancing – maybe not exactly what the doctor ordered, but exactly the right prescription to get residents smiling, interacting, and yes…even dancing.
One day while visiting with residents Andrew Blaser, Administrator at Gem Village Assisted Living, had a thought. “What if we could get them dancing?” That thought was the beginning of an experiment that has literally changed the overall well-being of his residents.
“I’m honestly amazed at what a difference we are seeing in our residents,” said Blaser. “Something almost magical happens when you lift someone up who has been basically in a wheelchair for years and you help them move to the music.”
Gem Village started their experiment with the help of local band Highway 91 who began playing for the residents once a month earlier this Spring. Gradually most of the residents started to dance with each other and enjoy the music. But, there were some who at first seemed unmoved by the music alone.
“I remember going to one lady who is paralyzed on her left side and asking her to dance with me,” said Blaser. “I picked her up and pretty soon I started to feel her feet bouncing the jitterbug. I’m sure we were amusing to watch, but it was exciting to see her stimulation and excitement. She felt something doing something she loved and hadn’t been able to do for many years. Now I go up to her and remind her that she did the jitterbug.”
Another lady was very opposed to dancing. Blaser explains that she was not happy and since her husband had died it was hard to get a smile. With a lot of coaxing, Blaser finally got her to blush and she started loosening up and started dancing.
“One night we danced three songs straight,” said Blaser. “She’s pretty much in a wheelchair all the time, so she got worn out. We sat a couple songs out and then danced a couple more. We are seeing over time the energy increases and they can dance for longer periods of time.”
A study of more than 300 care home in the UK outlines the key benefits of dancing for seniors. A few benefits include:
• Dancing helps to improve balance
• Dancing improves strength and gait.
• Dancing helps improve cognitive abilities.
• Dancing has social benefits.
Blaser says that dancing seems to transport many seniors back to a time when they were younger. He is interested in having even more bands and groups come and perform.
“We welcome any musicians who can play music that our residents relate to and dance to,” said Blaser. “They enjoy it the most when they recognize the songs.”
Gem Village first opened in 2008 in Blackfoot. It is family owned and operated and they pride themselves on the level of care they offer. They plan to open their third facility for higher functioning elderly looking for living assistance later this year and have plans in place for a fourth one this spring, one of which will be a dedicated, secure memory care facility.