Dancing for Dementia at Burleigh Heads Day Respite Centre

Aged Care Facility Burleigh Heads Gold Coast Queensland

According to the Australian government guidelines, the secret to staying healthy as we age includes at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days as the minimum.1 One fun way to get your heart pumping is to participate in a DanceWise program which uses music, song and simple dance moves to increase cardio fitness, and, you don’t have to leave your seat to do it!

DanceWise is a special style of dance which aims to provide an inclusive environment that motivates participants with a variety of physical and cognitive abilities. And you don’t need to be a certain age or have prior dance experience to join in the fun. The music and movements offered at each session can be personalised to suit a diverse range of participants including those from diverse cultural backgrounds and is inclusive for people living with dementia.

Since the introduction of DanceWise into the weekly schedule this year, living well with dementia was taken to a new level at the Burleigh Heads Day Respite Centre. Diversional Therapist Sharon Guarnaccia said that many of the current day respite centre clients live with dementia and they’ve found the songs from eras past can trigger a lifetime of happy memories.

Clients have enjoyed the group interaction that gets their hearts beating and toes tapping to rhythms spanning five decades including Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit song “These Boots Are Made for Walkin” and “Catch a Falling Star” made famous by Perry Como in 1957 . The playlist of songs is chosen to suit the clients attending the respite centre that day and may include an array of genres including swing, pop, flamenco, soft rock and culturally appropriate tunes such as a Polish polka! The tempo increases and decreases throughout the 30-minute session and winds down at the end with relaxation.

The staff who volunteered to complete training as DanceWise facilitators foster social interaction, memory recall and room for self-expression. Ozcare’s Dementia Advisory Support Service Advisor Wendy Bransgrove said, “Some clients who rarely join in activities have come to life during a DanceWise session”. A perfect example of this was when the song, “The Gambler” made famous by Kenny Rogers in 1978 played and a client living with dementia, who had rarely spoken a word, suddenly burst into song! Like many of us who know the song, he knew the words off by heart!

Wendy went on to say feedback received from clients about the DanceWise experience was “beautiful”, “exhilarating”, “awesome” and “exquisite”. These words describe a feeling we could all aspire to when doing daily exercise, but rarely do we reach such heights while seated in a chair.

Apart from a fun, cardio workout, there are many more benefits gained from this dance artform. DanceWise provides an inclusive environment, promotes social activity on a physical, mental and emotional level to engage individuals of all ages in life-giving experiences.The program aims to improve general levels of health, immune function, brain health, neuroplasticity, confidence and social integration.

Research shows global benefits range from enhancing brain-body reaction time, coordination, fall prevention, agility, balance to influencing endocrine-psychological states such as confidence and risk taking.It also has a calming effect on the immune system, the root of many of today’s chronic health challenges, and has transformative power to promote new brain synapse connections and cognitive reserve (resistance to future damage to the brain) at any age, slowing the rate of brain deterioration.3

With all these health benefits, and the chance to feel your time spent was “exquisite”, you must ask yourself… When was the last time you put on some great tunes to bust a move on the dance floor?

Further information about the Burleigh Heads Day Respite Centre can be found at https://www.ozcare.org.au/aged-care/day-respite-centres/burleigh-heads/. For more information about the DanceWise program go to https://www.dancehealthalliance.org.au/


  1. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/130D93778A64136DCA257BF0001DACF2/$File/pa-guidelines.pdf
  2. https://www.dancehealthalliance.org.au/impact
  3. https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/6278fd_6deac112df994130a248233aef2903cf.pdf