DANCING AWAY DEMENTIA

Don Herbison-Evans ,   donherbisonevans@yahoo.com
Byrnes Dance Image

Dementia is one of the most frightening problems facing older folk, and the cost of care for those with dementia in Australia is about 5 Billion dollars a year. Can anything be done to reduce this problem?

Some research done in New York by a team led by Dr. Joe Verghese offers some hope. They studied nearly 500 people over the age of 75 for over 5 years, classifying what daily activities each person did frequently, and what problems they eventually encountered, and studied particularly which common activities were associated with a reduction in the incidence of dementia. Their results are just statistical tables.

They found that many activities that had been thought to be beneficial actually had no effect on the incidence of dementia. Here is a summary of their findings:

ACTIVITY  
% REDUCTION IN DEMENTIA
Writing  
0
Cycling  
0
Group discussions  
0
Climbing stairs  
0
Team games  
0
Group exercise  
0
   
 
Housework  
12
Babysitting  
19
Swimming  
29
Walking  
33
Reading  
35
Crossword puzzles  
41
Playing musical instrument  
69
Playing board games  
74
Dancing  
76

How one interprets these statistics is controversial, but a simple cause and effect interpretation offers hope.

The winning strategy for reducing the chance of getting dementia seems to be frequent dancing. And it is popular. Most of uswould to look forward every day to holding person of the opposite gender in their arms and going with them for a spin on the dance-floor. It is so lovely.

The problems are that many clubs are busy carpeting their dance floors over, and populating their ballrooms with poker machines. Many councils with nice dance-halls see them as expensive real estate, so want big rents to hire them out for dancing.

These are very short-sighted views. These quick dollars are likely to increase our enormous dementia care bills. Maybe there should be grants from our health departments to clubs and councils to encourage them to retain and even expand the number of dance-halls, and make them available cheaply during the day on weekdays to encourage pensioners to go there.

These strategies may not work, but doing nothing will certainly let the dementia bill increase, year by year. A modest expenditure from the government could save enormous amounts of money, and reduce significantly the terrible suffering caused by dementia. There is hope.

Reference:
Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly, Joe Verghese, M.D. et al.

(written 21 May 2012)

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