‘We see magic’: People with dementia relearn how to dance in unique Nanaimo class

'We see magic': People with dementia relearn how to dance in unique Nanaimo class

Escorted by caregivers and hopeful loved ones, residents of a Nanaimo care home filled their dance class Thursday, in hopes of remembering what’s been forgotten.

“This is so special for us. We see magic,” said Carolina Ponsford, programs manager for Eden Gardens.

The unique class tries to reintroduce people living with dementia, to the present – to the moment at hand – in all its sound and feeling, through music.

Led by Nanaimo dance teacher Ivana Ho, it has been running since the fall of 2023 at Eden Gardens. According to Ho, she starts with songs and stretching, moves on to small movements within minutes, and quite quickly residents are moving their limbs, singing along and some rise to their feet in dance.

“And it brings so much to the person, cognitively and physically,” Ho told CHEK News on Thursday.

Some can no longer remember who they are, but according to Ho, they do remember a tune from when they were young that sparks life inside, and Thursday even brought tears to one woman’s face.

“They will remember those songs, even though they may not remember your name and all of a sudden, they’re like ‘Oh I’m alive, right!'” said Ho.

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“It’s like a big lovely family in here,” said Eden Gardens resident Gail Sneddon.

“And does it bring back memories?” CHEK News asked her.

“Yeah. Yeah,” replied Sneddon.

“You know what, it just shows that wherever you’re at, music just brings joy to you,” said Andrea Miller, whose longtime friend is now a resident of Eden Gardens.

Though no one appeared to enjoy it more so than 78-year-old Edgar Cummings, who came alive in Thursday’s class, singing along, then rising to his feet and encouraging his neighbours to move as well.

“It’s a wonderful class. I appreciate everything everybody does. It’s wonderful to see people expressing themselves with joy,” Cummings told CHEK News.

“And he must have been a person like this. And we get part of that person back, right, doing the classes,” said Ho.

As lyrics unlock memories and dance steps take people back in time, even briefly, until next time.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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