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Dancing With Grandma to Boost Mood, Strengthen Familial Bonds

In old age, meeting one’s physical and social needs can become increasingly difficult. In a unique study, Israeli researchers observed what happens when grandmothers and grandchildren come together to participate in dance movement therapy (DMT).

They discovered that dance movement therapy can be used as an enjoyable and effective tool to promote exercise, boost mood, improve quality of life and create intergenerational closeness.

The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

For the study, researchers from the Kibbutzim College and University of Haifa in Israel recruited 16 dance movement therapists to meet with their grandmothers for three free-form dance sessions.

Dance movement therapy is defined by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.

Dance was chosen as a unique and versatile intervention since it can improve muscle strength, balance, and endurance, prevent anxiety and depression, and aid with dementia — all issues commonly faced among the elderly population. It also offers a model for low-cost and accessible community support.

The goal of the study was to see how these sessions would affect each group, and whether intergenerational bonds might strengthen as a result. The researchers also wanted to examine a potential low-cost method to treat issues commonly faced by an aging population, such as depressed mood and limited mobility.

“The increase of the proportion of elderly in the population, along with the increase in the age group of adult grandchildren necessitates creativity and innovation in providing diverse resources and support,” said author Dr. Einat Shuper Engelhard.

Shuper Engelhard analyzed taped videos of the sessions, personal diaries, and semi-structured interviews between granddaughters and grandmothers to analyze the effect of dance movement therapy.

She also found that for grandmothers, dancing promoted positive feelings and improved mood. For granddaughters, dancing shifted their perspective of aging and allowed them to process their grandparent’s eventual death. Both groups expressed gratitude and felt their bond was stronger after the sessions.

Each of the three sessions was conducted one week apart and took place in the grandmother’s home for just 10 to 15 minutes. At first, the granddaughters were nervous over their ability to provide a meaningful experience, but they were instructed to mirror their grandmother’s movements, encourage their abilities, and give them space to rest when it was needed.

Shuper Engelhard said familiarity was vital to the intervention’s success. The dancing sessions “promoted physical activity even when the body was fatigued and weak,” Shuper Engelhard says. “This emphasizes the significance of the close and familiar relationship as a means to promote new experiences (which can occasionally seem impossible) for the older person.”

The research had some limitations as only 32 individuals participated (16 grandmother-granddaughter pairs), and although the study was open to grandchildren of all genders, all participants were female. In addition, all granddaughters in this study were dance/movement therapists.

Shuper Engelhard would like to conduct similar research in other populations. With an activity as simple and accessible as free-form dancing, aging populations can improve their physical and mental health and also connect with their loved ones.

Source: Frontiers

Dancing With Grandma to Boost Mood, Strengthen Familial Bonds

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Dancing With Grandma to Boost Mood, Strengthen Familial Bonds. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 22 Apr 2020 (Originally: 22 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 22 Apr 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.