A Smile For The Holiday: Seniors Enjoy Valentine’s Dance

Tuesday, February 14 2017

The following article is reprinted verbatim and photos from the Martinsville Bulletin at: http://www.martinsvillebulletin.com/accent/a-smile-for-the-holiday-seniors-enjoy-valentine-s-dance/article_59e4bf27-51f1-5849-be8d-bc783df46562.html

The goal was to put smiles on some faces for Valentine’s Day. On Tuesday, residents from Edwards Adult Day Center got together with the patients from Stepping Stones Inc. Playing popular tunes through the decades, Jessica Riggs, music and licensing coordinator, led participants in several line dances.

The group started out with the Cupid Shuffle, an appropriately named song for the day celebrating love. The synchronized moves got almost everyone out on the dance floor. Many who didn’t dance watched, clapped their hands and grooved in their seats.

With a playlist of recognizable tunes – including the “Electric Slide,” “Macarena” and the “Cha Cha Slide” – several participants who normally remain seated instead got up and busted a move. The change in countenance didn’t surprise Activities Director Dawn Hilburn, who said it’s normal to see more participation when music’s introduced.

“It sparks something in them,” Hilburn said. “People with Alzheimer’s and dementia respond to music no matter what stage it is.”

The activities director said that the identifiable music brings thoughts of participants’ younger years back to mind. Many people were active when the dance songs first became popular, and they learned the moves. Decades later, the motions appear from deep within the brain.

Even if the palms are up when they’re supposed to be down or the left hand touches the left shoulder instead of the right during the “Macarena,” the idea of movement associated with music brings people back to their youth.

“People get up and dance when otherwise they can hardly move,” Hilburn said. “After the music stops, they go right back into the stage they’re in.”

Dancing also helps participants’ balance and coordination skills, as well as their hand-eye coordination. It also has overall health benefits.

“Movement, like dancing or walking, lowers blood pressure,” Hilburn said. “When you’re dancing, you’re laughing and releasing [endorphins].”

While most dances encouraged singular participation, some tunes lent themselves to slow dancing with partners. Participants danced together, as did staff members with the clients.

Steve DeJarnette, an Edwards participant, enjoyed the one-on-one dance time.

“I danced with three women,” DeJarnette said.

The participant especially enjoyed grooving with Stepping Stones employee, Natalie Trotter.

“I’d never danced with Natalie before, but we danced so beautifully together,” DeJarnette said

While he enjoyed dancing, DeJarnette demonstrated his true passion by singing lines from the King’s “Love Me Tender” in front of a group of friends.

“I like singing like Elvis Presley,” DeJarnette said. “I’ve got a better voice.”

Linda Hall, an Edwards participant, didn’t admit to being a professional dancer, but said she had fun at the Valentine’s Day event.

Participants – both at Edwards and Stepping Stones – enjoyed a home cooked meal by Phoebia Carter, who said the most important ingredient was love.

“We had lasagna, toss salad, peach cobbler and French bread,” Carter said. “I just love people and love to cook.”

Before Stepping Stones participants left Edwards, Edwards staff handed each individual a goodie bag.

Edwards participants also went home with a bag of treats, a handmade Valentine’s card, and a gift from a fellow participant.

Amie Knowles reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at amie.pickeral@martinsvillebulletin.com