Use of Dance Movement Therapy to Enhance the Psychological Well-being of Elderly

Dulari Pawar and Ruta Pai



This article aims to present an overview of the effect of Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) as an intervention tool to enhance the psychological well-being among elderly. There were 15 participants, from a reputed old age home in Pune, between the age group of 65-80 years who participated in the sessions, out of which 6 participants who regularly attended the sessions were chosen for the case studies. They attended the DMT sessions for over a period of four months. Individual and group coding tests were administered through a pre-test and a post-test on the participants. The test studies the ‘effectiveness of DMT on enhancing different areas of Psychological well-being such as Positive relations with others, Self-acceptance, Purpose in life, Personal Growth, Environmental Mastery and Autonomy’. This study allows for further research in this field where DMT can be effectively used to enhance the psychological well-being of the elderly.

Key words: Dance Movement Therapy, Elderly, Psychological well-being


We felt the necessity to conduct a research of this nature because elderly population in India is continuously increasing and the problems faced by them are increasing simultaneously. The number of people in old age homes are constantly increasing and most of the parents are now deciding to live in old age homes rather than living with their children. Moreover, aging has long been associated with gradual deterioration in the functioning of all the organs and systems of the body. Deterioration in physical conditioning is partly the result of the lack of physical activity. The perception of body image and physical capacities affect in a serious way, the sense of psychological well- being and wholeness of an individual. Physiological and psychological issues can often be inter-related. Loss of functional mobility, for example, can contribute significantly to depression. It seems natural therefore that interventions which may contribute to physical mobility, may also have other far-reaching psychological benefits. The negligence and indifferent attitude of the family members towards the older people creates more emotional problems. Their social life is narrowed down by loss of work associated, death of relatives, friends and spouse and weak health which restricts their participation in social activities. Psychological wellbeing and health are closely related and the link may become more important at older ages, if only because the prevalence of chronic illness increases with advancing age. There is a growing research literature suggesting that psychological wellbeing may even be a protective factor in health, reducing the risk of chronic physical illness and promoting longevity. It has also been argued that psychological wellbeing should be addressed in measures of health valuation, and be considered in health care resource allocation.

In this article, we would like to discuss some of the interesting cases from the study-

Case 1- Mr. Ali 

Mr. Ali (Name changed) was an 83 year old divorced male. He wished to address his concerns on mental degeneration and spinal deformity. He was a film technician. Mr. Ali’s energy and participation increased to high as the sessions progressed. He started having reservations in sitting in the circle with all other female participants. He, however, would freely express that to the facilitators. His use of space became extensive especially during guided imagery sessions. He expressed during verbalisations that his memories had come back to him through the sessions and he felt a new zeal for life due to the sessions. In his expressions and his movements, we could see intensity and exploration along the sessions.

Case 2 – Ms. Shilpa Kadhe

Shilpa Kadhe(Name changed) was a 50 years old unmarried woman. She was staying with her parents at the old-age home. Shilpa was suffering from moderate mental retardation but was able to perform the everyday activities. As reported by her mother, she was very creative and loved to dance. We, as therapists, could not go deeper into knowing the exact difficulty considering the social environment and people at the centre. In the initial sessions, Shilpa was very shy and would not be an active participant as her mother would respond for her before she could. However, in one of the sessions when her mother was absent, she confidently stepped in the circle without any prompting to perform the activity. She also spoke very confidently during checking in and was very participative throughout the session. Her body attitude improved from rigid to active as well as her imitation skills became better. She started making eye-contact more often and the requirement of verbal prompts too lessened considerably. Towards the end of the sessions, Shilpa’s participation in the sessions was higher; she learned to adapt with the group and her articulation became clearer.

Case 3 – Lata Bhise

Lata is a 60 year old female who was an active and enthusiastic participant. She used to enjoy every session thoroughly. Her interest in the session was such that she came for the sessions even when her hand was severely injured and participated in all the activities. She had also led a lot of group activities like Bhondla and also performed their own skit along with her two friends. Earlier Lata had tension in the neck and had difficulty doing the neck rotations but as the sessions went on, the tension in the neck reduced considerably. Improvisation skills were seen to have enhanced visibly and she began using the space around her extensively. Her level of participation and the quality of her movements significantly improved as we progressed with the sessions. Moreover, an improvement was noted in her listening skills, verbal articulation and verbal physical simultaneity. She also developed good leadership skills over time and her participation in the session went on increasing with the sessions.

Our intention in conducting this study was to create a safe haven for the participants to explore and express themselves through their own movement. Our sessions plans were designed accordingly. We, as facilitators, did our best to be attuned to the group, in a way that we could sense the needs of the group and let them lead the sessions. Every session would end with the participants feeling elevated. They would thank us for the sessions wholeheartedly. We would return from the sessions, feeling content about having taken them to a better place through our sessions. As the sessions progressed, we also observed the group bonding better. Moreover, their trust in us was seen to be increasing. They would individually express their personal experiences sometimes after the session. As facilitators we realized that every session was as much an experience for us as the participants. It was a journey of self exploration for us as well.

To summarize, the results of the study found that DMT activities done during the sessions had immense effects on the elderly and helped to improve their well-being in various domains. It was observed that each individual went through a different experience and benefitted in a variety of ways. The effects of this therapy also showed good results in improving physical issues of the individuals to some extent such as tensions or aches in some parts of the body. Therefore, the effectiveness of DMT is justified in enhancing the well-being of the elderly. On the other hand, it is necessary that this process of Dance Movement Therapy is undertaken on a regular basis to see long term changes. The research work done in this field is extensive but the work done in India is minimal. There is a need and necessity to document work, conduct more researches in this field in Indian setting at a micro level and expand to the macro level.


Steptoe A., Deaton A., Stone A. (2015) Psychological well-being, health and ageing, PubMed Central. Baptista, J., & Narciso, F. (2015). Dance Movement Therapy as a Health Promotion Tool in Aging.

Hui, E., Woo, J., Chui, T. (2008). Effects of dance on physical and psychological well-being in older persons. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics react-text: 53 49(1):e45-50.

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