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Scholarship to study the benefits of dance on dementia

Scholarship to study the benefits of dance on dementia

A desire to bridge the divide between science and the arts and help the community has won a student a $5,000 scholarship. Carlene Newall, from the University of Auckland, has been awarded the inaugural Gavin and Susan Walker Postgraduate Scholarship in Dance Studies, and will investigate the benefits of dance on people affected by dementia.

With an interdisciplinary background in both science and dance, the twenty nine year-old is embarking on a doctorate through the Dance Studies Programme where she will undertake a pilot study organised in collaboration with the Centre for Brain Research (CBR) at the University. As part of her PhD Carlene will establish a Brain Dance Group to trial the value of regular dance sessions for individuals with dementia.

“With the number of people in New Zealand living with dementia estimated to more than triple by 2050, there is a need for creative approaches in research to examine ways to delay the onset of the disease, slow the progression and improve the quality of life for those affected,” says Carlene.

The Mount Albert resident, who also teaches a dance paper at the University, has been testing ways dance can be used in different communities. As part of the course she has been facilitating dance sessions with elderly residents at local rest homes. Keeping it in the family, her 87 year-old Grandmother has presented a guest lecture talking to students about her own dance experience.

“There is already some evidence linking dance activities with a reduction in the risk of dementia, but it can be difficult to translate the benefits of a medium like dance into numbers to measure actual results. I hope my research will bridge this divide,” she says.

Carlene is heading off to the United Kingdom later this year for a short research trip to visit international practitioners involved in dance and dementia programmes. She also hopes to stage a performance of the Brain Dance Group alongside CBR’s CeleBRation choir, the acclaimed singing group for people with neurological conditions.


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