With this one word, Filipinos dismiss the elderly’s cognitive impairment – be it momentary inability to remember a fitting word or a relatively longer period of so-called “senior moments”.

It is not uncommon for Filipino families to take care of ailing lolos (grandfathers) and lolas (grandmothers). However, we seldom address their cognitive complaints when in fact these problems significantly impact their quality of life. For instance, most Filipinos are unaware the simple lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, could delay the onset of dementia. This compelled our team to test whether ballroom dancing, performed as a regular physical activity, could have a positive impact on the cognitive abilities of the elderly diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Ballroom dancing is a fairly staple activity for most parties involving senior citizens. It connotes images of a large bare room filled with elderly people, dance instructors and loud music. Ballroom dancing tends to be the central feature of any social event even in far-flung barangays and towns in the Philippines. For these reasons, we thought of testing whether ballroom dancing could serve as a viable non-pharmacological tool by which we could address the problem of MCI.

Ballroom dancing involved a two-pronged approach in dealing with MCI. First, it is widely-known that regular, moderately strenuous physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive performance; ballroom dancing may therefore qualify in this respect. Second, ballroom dancing has a social component, requiring interaction with a dance partner and with the entire dance group.

We enrolled about 200 lolos and lolas from Marikina City to participant in our study. Although at first the number seemed prohibitive, we were pleasantly surprised that many of the elderly in the community demanded that they be allowed to join the group. The baseline psychometric and psychological measures are already in and we are about to start the dance sessions.

If ballroom dancing is found to be effective in promoting the overall cognitive health of the elderly, recommendations to include ballroom dancing as a regular activity funded at the barangay level will be provided to policy makers.

Written by:
Maria Clarissa M. Del Moral
St. Lukes Medical Centre

Published by:
Department of Science and Technology – Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII)