Seniors Dance Their Way to Better Balance

Visually impaired elderly patients had improved balance and quality of life after taking dance lessons

(RxWiki News) Finding ways to keep the elderly moving and feeling independent can be challenging. Dance lessons with a partner can be a fun and safe way to help the elderly stay active. 

Many adults over 80 years old can have problems with vision loss. This loss can lead to less independence. Vision loss can also lead to balance problems and a higher risk of falling. 

A recent study found that a partnered dance program improved mobility, balance and quality of life in older adults with vision loss.

"Find a community center that offers dance classes."

Madeline Hackney, PhD, of Rehab R & D Center, Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, and colleagues set out to examine if older adults (over 77 years old) with visual impairments could safely benefit from learning a partnered tango dance.

Study participants included seven women and six men with visual impairments. The impairments were macular degeneration (age-related vision loss) and glaucoma. The average age was 86.9 years old. 

Participants were taught a modified tango dance based on their vision loss. Participants were partnered with volunteers without vision loss. The study included twenty dance lessons that lasted for 1.5 hours each. 

Safety and participant satisfaction were measured using a questionnaire after the last dance lesson and a month later. Researchers also measured participants' balance and lower body strength. 

A total of 12 participants completed the study and no injuries were reported. The participants reported enjoying the dance lessons. Participants also reported improvements in their physical well-being and quality of life.  

The participants also showed significant improvements in their posture and lower body strength. 

"Oldest-old adults with vision loss, for whom rehabilitative options are needed, may experience satisfaction with an adapted tango class," study authors said in the study. 

The study did have some limitations. The size of the study was very small and did not include a comparative group that did not have dance lessons. Results may not apply to the general population. 

This study, titled "Dancing for Balance: Feasibility and Efficacy in Oldest-Old Adults With Visual Impairments," was published in the Nursing Research journal. It was funded by National Eye Institute. Dr. Hackney and colleagues disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
March 12, 2013