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The Benefits of Dance/ Movement Therapy for Older Adults with Limited Mobility

A Q&A with Hebrew Rehabilitation Center Dance Therapist Whitney L. DiGeronimo
 Dance Therapist Whitney L. DiGeronimo leads a Dance for Parkinson's class at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center

For the past two years, registered Dance/Movement Therapist Whitney L. DiGeronimo, MA, R-DMT, has been a member of the Expressive Therapies Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. I recently spoke with her about her role and the “Dance for Parkinson’s” class now offered on-site to HRC patients at our Boston and Dedham locations.

Tell us about your professional background and training, and your role at HRC?

I am a Registered-Dance/Movement Therapist through the American Dance Therapy Association. I received my MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Mental Health Counseling at Antioch University New England. I have worked at inpatient and outpatient mental health settings providing therapy for individuals and families.

As a member of the Expressive Therapies Department at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, I provide group and individual dance/movement therapy services. As part of the expressive therapies training program, I provide clinical supervision to dance/movement therapy graduate student interns. After receiving teacher’s training from the Dance for PD® organization, I have begun leading weekly Dance for Parkinson’s groups at HRC Boston and HRC Dedham.

Why is dance and movement important to you?

Movement is our first form of communication and self-expression. Movement can be used as a vehicle for a person to identify and express their needs, to discover new strengths, to build confidence, and to connect with one’s community and environment. Dance can be transformational. When used as a therapeutic intervention, it improves wellbeing by supporting cognitive, physical, emotional, and social integration.

Why is it important to have a Dance for Parkinson’s group at HRC?

Many of our patients living with Parkinson’s disease are facing a similar challenge: the progressive loss of independence and self-expression. Dance for Parkinson’s at HRC offers many physical benefits throughout the session such as, support for movement initiation, increased range of movement, flexibility, and coordination.

The group also provides emotional support, cognitive engagement, and an opportunity for meaningful social interaction. Helping patients feel more deeply connected to others is one of the greatest benefits of a dance/movement therapy group. People who are unable to create or maintain relationships independently are at risk of isolation and depression, and the dance/movement therapy group provides the support needed for interpersonal connection with others. The "Dance for Parkinson’s at HRC" group allows for patients to discover and use their strengths!

 Tell us about a time when you knew that you made a positive difference in the life of a patient.

In addition to leading group sessions, I provide individual therapy to patients who are unable to engage in group services due to various challenges. There is a patient who was isolating herself and refusing to attend any activities or groups. We began our work together in individual sessions. After building a trusting relationship, this patient agreed to join the group session. Through the group, she is able to connect with other community members and create relationships. This patient currently attends the group every week and is therefore at a lower risk of isolation and depression.

 What do seniors tell you they like about the dance/movement therapy groups?

Movement often brings memories forward, and group members enjoy reminiscing and sharing a part of their life story with others. At the end of each group, I invite the members to share how the session affected them. I often hear comments like, “It made me think,” and “I moved every part of my body!” Without fail, someone comments on the feeling of “togetherness” or “relaxation.”  Since dance/movement therapy engages the mind, body, and the social-emotional self, it is not uncommon for a group member to say, “I feel more alive!”

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About the Blogger

Health Care Marketing Communications Manager until August 2017

As a member of the Hebrew SeniorLife marketing communications team, Bill Burgey is responsible for leading marketing initiatives for Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. He takes great pride in working with staff at all levels of the organization to achieve desired results. 

He is responsible for the recent launch of Hebrew Rehabilitation Center’s long-term care lead generation campaign and works on projects to strengthen branding ties between HSL and its health care services.  Bill works with the marketing teams at Boston area hospitals to develop strategic communications plans around...

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i am 83= and have fallen several times lately. no warnings.thinking i might need more exercise
Thank you for commenting, Mr. Sears. We are sorry to hear about your recent falls. Please check your email for a few online resources from Hebrew SeniorLife that you may find helpful.
I was wondering where Whitney got the origami birds on a stick? Or did she make them? Thank you Lisa Goldstein MA,R_DMT
Hi Lisa, Thanks for writing into the HSL blog. The birds were made by the residents at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center under the guidance and direction of our Art Specialist, Olga Shmuylovich. Residents seemed to enjoy and benefit from this collaborative project – and those who participated in making the birds have been able to see their creation in use!

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