Dance, dance, dance!

“It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A…” Physiotherapist Hilary Johnson demonstrates how even warm-up exercises for her dance class can be fun and easy for Deer Lodge’s chronic care residents.


Lindsay Mykes

Residents of Deer Lodge Centre’s chronic care unit are probably having more fun than you are this Tuesday morning.

Since September 2017, they’ve been coming together for weekly dance classes. Like all innovation at Deer Lodge, the classes are the result of a collaboration between colleagues who saw an opportunity to improve resident care.

“The idea belonged to our rehabilitation assistant, Samantha Wilkinson,” explains physiotherapist and dance instructor Hilary Johnson. “But she didn’t have the dance background. I do have a bit of dance training, so I said I’d be willing to give it a try.”

The class draws a weekly crowd of six or seven residents who share a love of music, rhythm and movement.

“The majority of the people here really like to dance,” says Hilary of her students. “Some come to listen to the music, and one comes just because they think it’s a fun environment.” One very loyal student has not missed a single week, she adds.

Planning the class requires something of a delicate shuffle-step from Hilary, who has to make things engaging enough to keep core members coming back for more, but easy enough for drop-ins to participate without feeling awkward or intimated.

Classes begin with a variety of warm-up routines from a seated position that allow the dancers to gently work their range of motion. Props are there to help—many are used in novel ways that almost hide their purpose as rehabilitation aids. Hilary is adept at working with the residents to make sure everyone can participate within their abilities.

She also accommodates a full range of musical preferences. The song selection and dance styles range from classic musical theatre to Frank Sinatra, from Latin beats to Top 40 hits. And yes, she does take requests.

Classes like these give Deer Lodge residents a variety of enticing options when it comes to keeping active and engaged. “They’re not sitting in their rooms. They’re moving, their hearts are pumping. They look so happy.”

Other programs currently being offering include a standing balance class. In the near future, Hilary hopes to start a resistance class and add another dance class, or expand the current dance class to include residents from the centre’s personal care home units.

In the meantime, there’s always room for more on the Tuesday morning dance floor. If you’re looking for a fun way to meet other residents, smile, or shake a leg, come on down! The moves begin at 10 a.m.


Did you know…

Regular aerobic exercise provides significant physical and cognitive benefits. But as we age, we sometimes struggle to find exercise that we can comfortably do—let alone enjoy.

The good news is that for older adults, the best exercise is dancing! Recent research indicates that dancing offers the benefits of aerobic exercise and helps improve balance, build cognitive function, strengthen motor skills and lift mood, all with low risk of injury.

Some community centres offer seniors’ dance exercise classes, but you don’t have to leave home. There are dance exercise DVDs specifically for seniors, or you can just put on your favourite music and boogie away in your living room.

Talk to your doctor before starting any fitness program.