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Dancing and Dementia

There are currently over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and this is set to rise to over 1 million by 2021. Dementia can devastate the lives of people affected, along with being very intense and emotional for loved ones. Although there is not yet a cure, there is now certainly more things we can do to improve the lives of people who live with the condition.

We have previously discussed the amazing effects of music therapy for patients and how it improves the mood, alertness and engagement of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Leading research has shown that this also applies in the physical form of dancing, as it can significantly improve and support the mood, alertness and communication of patients.

There are well-established therapeutic dance techniques and classes for Parkinson’s Disease but, until now, there hasn’t been the same global model for dance for people with dementia. In general, dance and movement therapy can maintain and, at times, improve both memory and cognitive functioning, so seeing this rise in popularity for dementia patients, is really important.

So far, research has shown that the effects of dance in elderly individuals with dementia have shown that the dance therapy has been effective in stimulating social interaction with the patient, along with enhancing their mood, reducing anxiety, reducing depressive symptoms and increasing their self-awareness and self-expression.

Managing and reducing psychological symptoms like these, overall support a better quality of life. This, in turn, has also led to better support for those affected by a loved one with the disease to cope better with the symptoms. The focus of the non-verbal communication and mindfulness is a different and important way to communicate with love ones when words fail.


Time to Dance

Through their skill and expertise in dance health, alongside consultation and experimentation, Scottish Ballet are now hosting free drop-in classes called Time to Dance, offering people with dementia a chance to express themselves and communicate through dance with their family members and carers.

Photo credit: Scottish Ballet


This is following popular research that shows dancing, more than other forms of exercise, leads to improved brain function.

“When people living with dementia can feel isolated and lonely and depressed, it impacts on mobility and independence. Dance breaks that cycle, it makes your body bigger because it gives you tools to be able to use it. Coming to class is also a social experience because it gives you a way to connect with people”

-Miriam Early, Dance Health Coordinator at Scottish Ballet

What to expect

  • Time to Dance classes begin seated, progressing slowly with options to stand or remain seated
  • Classes are accompanied by a live percussionist and led by two experienced dance artists who have received specialised training from Alzheimer’s Scotland, NHS and Hearts & Minds.
  • Classes begin gently, becoming more energised throughout, before ending with a calming cool-down and a chance to dance freely with your partner
  • Classes consist of a mixture of group dances, partner dances, games, creative movement, improvisation, ballet, and dancing with props

Dance therapy just like this offers individuals the opportunity to being truly present, to engage in their senses, and to tap into their independence, individuality, and self-awareness. It’s always worth remembering that moving the body goes hand in hand with moving the mind!


If you have any questions or are concerned about a loved one with dementia, or who you think might have dementia, please get in touch with us on 0141 948 0206 or email us at


Posted 11th February 2020

2 responses to “Dancing and Dementia

  1. I have been a member and organised of a sequence dance club since 1993 with members aged from 55 to 95. Still going “but not strong” as membership is dropping because we consider our age group to be the last dancing generation of true partnership dancing.

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