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Moses Williams and Scout Peterson.

Moses Williams and Scout Peterson practicing their dance moves for the Kairos Dance Theatre's public performance in April.

Moving towards vitality

U professor looks at the impact of dance on older adults.

By Pauline Oo

From M, summer 2005

Moses Williams sits at the edge of the dance floor, watching the other adults try aerial lifts on the children, all members of the intergenerational Kairos Dance Theatre. The 69-year-old, whose movements are sluggish since he had a stroke, is tired but smiling after the group's warm-up to "Rockin' Robin."

Williams and 14 other members of the Senior Club at Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis have been dancing once a week through the Kairos "Dancing Heart: Vital Elders Moving in Community" program. Last spring, the troupe recruited U of M kinesiology professor Carla Tabourne to conduct a preliminary study on how its improvisational dance program affects adults over 65.

"I am looking at flexibility, coordination, static and dynamic balance--all the properties that dance offers," says Tabourne. "Very directly, [the program is giving the participants] strength, endurance, range of motion, and the ability to maintain balance."

Tabourne adds that health care providers are particularly interested in the topic of balance among older adults because falls are the leading incidents that take people from living at home to a nursing facility.

"[When we analyze all our data], I think we'll be able to make some statements about the amount of joy in life and confidence that [our participants] got from the program," she says. "In fact, almost confounding our research now are [some people with a lot of health issues] saying, 'You see me dancing; I can't be very sick."

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