Dance therapy helps to get recovering patients back on their feet

A series of dance classes could be just what the doctor ordered particularly as the results appear to show benefits for both physical and mental health.

Organised by dance teachers Wendy and Peter Colhoun, the classes are helping six older people who are recovering from injuries after falls, or following surgery.

Through Community Health the group was put in touch with Wendy, who has organised partners for them.

Michael Grant who lives at Burragate, spent a week in hospital with foot problems.

"The physio told me about the course and asked if I wanted to go. I said I would love to. I went to dancing lessons when I was 16," Michael said.

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Although he hadn't danced for 20 years, Michael got back into the steps and said his foot was getting better and that it was a nice way to do exercise.

"It's a great way to get fit and get your legs going," he said.

But there's been another benefit for Michael. Four years ago he lost his wife.

"I'm very introverted and this is helping me get to know people. Now I'm looking at what to do after this course. There are dance classes at Towamba, so I'm going to go along," Michael said.

Sybella Kaye of Bega was attending balance classes at the hospital after breaking her femur.

"During physio somebody said to me I should come along to this group as I liked dancing, although it's a long time since I did any dancing," Sybella said.

But three weeks after starting she says how much she loves it.

"It's fun and it makes me realise I can walk without a walker; it works and I enjoy it and it's social and exercise," she said.

Beth Claydon of Pambula had never danced before but says she is loving it.

"I was going to a falls and balance class and the physio suggested it might be a good thing to do. It has helped a lot with my balance," Beth said.

"I have to think of my balance and get my mind going and think what I'm doing next," Beth said of her dance lessons.

"The social aspect is very important. I love it and I'm enjoying mixing with different people," Beth added.

Beryl McGovern has broken her femur three times but it's not stopping her doing something she loves. She's been keen on dancing all her life and the physio at Community Health put her in touch with Wendy and Peter.

"Back in the 50s, 60s and even into the 80s there would be a dance somewhere, Kiah, Genoa, Eden, Pambula, Merimbula. They were all good nights; we'd travel for miles on dirt roads to these dances every week," Beryl said.

At home Beryl puts on the music and dances with her walker.

"It keeps you reminded of the good old times," she said.

Beryl said she has enjoyed coming to the course with the chance of getting to meet other people.

Trish Hards lives in Wyndham and after having spinal surgery, the course was a suggestion to help her recover.

She said it really helped with her posture and to straighten her back.

Wendy and Peter are keen dancers and run the Take Your Brain Dancing sessions at the Uniting Church Hall. Wendy points to talks and research by NYU professor of neural science and psychology, Wendy Suzuki, who says exercise is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain.

Wendy said that with dancing there is exercise but also the need to keep your mind on the next steps. She has also noticed the social connection that the group provides.

Continuation of the course will depend on numbers and Wendy said they will reassess the situation at the end of June.

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