Dancing with older people with dementia in care homes

The idea: Introducing Dance-based exercise in care homes to diminish behavioural and psychological symptoms of older people with dementia and reduce the prescription of antipsychotic medication. 

My name is Azucena. I am a Postdoctoral Dementia Researcher at the North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT).  I completed my PhD in psychomotor interventions in dementia with a focus on behaviour and mood from the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, UK. My academic background is in Clinical Psychology which I studied at the Universidad de las Américas, A.C in Mexico City, and a master’s degree in Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation awarded from University of Birmingham, UK.

My first observation of the effect of dancing in people with dementia started in 1998. I was volunteering in a care home as an activity leader in the UK. I observed how people enjoyed dancing in the corridors and their laughter was contagious to other residents.  Ten years later, I was enthusiastic to develop rehabilitation programmes, evaluate them and provide evidence to show their effectiveness. Hence, I thought of combining my clinical skills with my second passion, which is dancing. Then, I designed a dancing intervention based on my personal experience with Danzon Latin Ballroom, the psychomotor therapy approach, and the FITTS principle to implement physical activity in older adults.

Following the Medical Research Council framework in the UK, as a model to inform the development of the dancing intervention, I conducted a systematic literature review. I found seven quantitative and three qualitative studies showing dancing as a potential intervention to improve mood in old people with dementia living in long-term care.

Then, I carried out a qualitative pilot study, which aimed to investigate the effect of introducing Danzon Latin Ballroom, with training staff as facilitators of the dancing sessions. Two separate conceptual models found positive outcomes and negative concerns around the use of Danzon, derived both from the experiences of people with dementia and from care staff. This pilot work led to conducting an exploratory trial to focus on individual responses in ten participants, measuring behaviour, mood and quality of life. These participants were diagnosed with different types of dementia in mild/moderate stages. Results revealed significant effect on the variables measured. The findings of this latter study are presented in relation to its potential contribution to the National Dementia Strategy in the UK. The results to-date contribute to the understanding of the dancing intervention as a treatment to reduce behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia, to improve job satisfaction and enhance the care staff’s morale, and also to improve social interactions and well-being in both residents and staff in long-term care settings.

At present, I am aiming to develop the dancing intervention in a larger sample under the supervision of Professor Martin Orrell, old-age psychiatrist expert in psychosocial interventions in dementia care. We will be recruiting ‘Pro-dancing care homes’ willing to implement regular dancing sessions at their settings.

To conclude, I would like to say that although I am in the early stages of my research career, I am committed to building evidence-based practice of Dance work as a non-pharmacological intervention for older people with dementia to improve their quality of life.

For further information on my research, email me Azucena.GuzmanGarcia@nelft.nhs.uk or follow me on Twitter: @Dancementia

Links to my publications:




If you aren't familiar with Danzon, here is a video showing the style of dance:

Published on 25 February 2013
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Love The Idea of dance

Watched the video I am also a volunteer at a lockdown dementia unit I will have to try dance with them !!! great article... great work....

Thank you.

Thank you. Although I am in early stages of my research career. I'm being brave to be open with the public in order to receive constructive criticism and improve my work. Indeed grateful with your comment.

Thank you

Thank you for your support. I am currently writing up articles with more research evidence. hope to publish in Summer.Azucena

Great study!

Great job Azucena, we at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario look forward to seeing further results from your study.

Awsome work !

The social development work and studies should be more aware of this kind of research and investigations. Congrats Dr Azucena!

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