Jerusalem: Physical fitness and social connection can be difficult to maintain in old age but researchers have found that Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) may promote exercise, improve quality of life and deepen familial ties between grandparents and grandchildren.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, sixteen dance movement therapists met with their grandmothers for three free-form dance sessions.
According to the researchers at Kibbutzim College and the University of Haifa in Israel, The goal was to determine how these sessions would affect each group, and whether intergenerational bonds might strengthen as a result.
The study also wanted to examine a potential low-cost method to treat issues commonly faced by an ageing population, such as depressed mood and limited mobility.
“The increase of the proportion of elderly in the population, along with the increase in the age group of adult grandchildren necessitates creativity and innovation in providing diverse resources and support,” said study author Dr Einat Shuper Engelhard from the University of Haifa.
For results, the researchers analysed taped videos of the sessions, personal diaries, and semi-structured interviews between granddaughters and grandmothers to analyze the effect of DMT.
The dance was chosen as a unique and versatile intervention since it can improve muscle strength, balance, and endurance, prevent anxiety and depression, and aid with dementia — all issues commonly faced among the elderly population.
It also offers a model for low-cost and accessible community support. Each of the three sessions was conducted one week apart and took place in the grandmother’s home for just 10 to 15 minutes.
Granddaughters were nervous at first over their ability to provide a meaningful experience but were instructed to mirror their grandmother’s movements, encourage their abilities, and give them space to rest when needed.
The researchers found that for grandmothers, dancing promoted positive feelings and improved mood. For granddaughters, dancing shifted their perspective of ageing and allowed them to process their grandparent’s eventual death.
Both groups expressed gratitude and felt their bond was stronger after the sessions, according to the study.
“The sessions promoted physical activity even when the body was fatigued and weak. This emphasises the significance of the close and familiar relationship as a means to promote new experiences (which can occasionally seem impossible) for the older person,” Engelhard noted.