This week was hugely exciting. Research undertaken with people with Parkinson’s Disease was published showing that with active methods, improvements to their lives in several areas can be made. The researchers at Roehampton University in the UK showed that when dancers worked with those having Parkinson’s, they grew in confidence, in their actual ability to move more and with more control over those movements. The dancers worked with the group to teach them ballet steps and movement to music. The fact that the dancers were from the English National Ballet was the icing on the cake.
There is much to be considered here. Even moving more and in positions that allow the lungs better movement will always help. More oxygen to our bodies can only be a plus when we make that increase through our own efforts. But this work goes a long way past this. The rhythm, the music and the imagination that goes into dance is stimulating many different parts of the brain.
The results that have been found here bear a close resemblance to those achieved using dramatherapy with the disabled, autism and those with dementia. The increase in confidence, in feeling less anxious and in the ability to interact are rapid and make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by such conditions - not to mention their families and friends.
One of my many happy memories is of a man who started out re-enacting gangster or cowboy movies. He ended by doing the haka for us. For non kiwis that’s the challenge given to important guests as they arrive, a mark of respect but intimidating. To see someone who had only sat in a chair do this, unable to walk except with a stick very slowly, on his feet unaided at full volume was uplifting. And he told us after that this was his gift to us.
We have the opportunity to do that research here, before the arrival of, what the current Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, has described as, the next major threat to our health system. That is the huge increase in those diagnosed with Alzheimers and dementia that will come with our aging population. It is already starting and in a small country like ours we do not have the resources to deal with this.
Let’s invest in some work that does offer positive results. So many people who are affected directly or have family or friends affected by illness that affects memory ,movement or interaction have indicated that they give up in despair because they lost hope. Here is a way that is safe, fun and rapidly beneficial and we haven’t even begun to explore its’ full potential.
Whoever you are, dance, sing, make up stories this week. Do it for yourself, for fun and take a moment to reflect on how much it could help so many.