Dancing Has Never Been So Fun - and Healthy

By Kelsey Pohlman
Outreach and Engagement Communications Intern

The sounds of Judy Garland, Ray Charles and Elvis Presley blast through the speakers. Wheelchairs, walkers and tiny feet shuffle through the door. All of these moving parts head towards the music, which leads to recent Ohio State alumna Sarah Kidd's weekly Dance for Health class.

Residents dance

Dance for Health was a dance class created and implemented by Kidd ('13 BS, '16 DPT) that addressed the physical and social health of residents at First Community Village, a senior-living community. Kidd was able to put on this class by receiving a Columbus-Athens Albert Schweitzer Fellowship in 2015-16, the last year of her doctoral program.

The purpose of the fellowship program is to facilitate development of programs that benefit the Columbus and Athens communities, and simultaneously develop emerging professionals who have the skills to address unmet health-related needs throughout their careers. And Kidd did just that.

"I heard of the fellowship as a first-year physical therapy student," Kidd explained. "As a second-year student I realized I had free time and the idea started spilling out of me. I've always wanted to do something with dancing and the elderly."

Music Makes the Soul Grow Fonder

When Kidd came into the picture, First Community Village already had a myriad of classes, like tai-chi, balance, meditation, volleyball, Wii games and even another dance class.

But Kidd's choice in music is the essential part of what makes her dance sessions so successful. Kidd's classes were specifically catered to her students by choosing songs that the residents liked and requested by artists such as Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and The Andrews Sisters.

Kidd's classes included independent, assisted, long-term and memory-care residents. For many of these residents, the music brought them back to their youth, but their bodies weren't in the same space. Luckily, Kidd knows how to cater music and the dancing to fit her students' needs.

"The majority of the residents are in chairs for our classes," Kidd explained. "I compensated for the residents' level of motion with emotive expression and rhythm through their feet, arms and torso."

The residents also engaged in various exercises through kicks, which helped with knee extension. Even through when these exercises were challenging, the staff noticed that it lifted spirits and increased activity.

"All of the feedback I received was positive," Kidd said. "Students said things like 'I love it,' 'Can't wait for next week,' and 'I can't believe class was over already.'"

Mentorship in Leadership

Throughout her journey, Kidd knew she could not complete her dream alone. She had two mentors to help her along her dancing fellowship: Fellowship Mentor Jackie Metro, PT, DPT, GCS at First Community Village and Academic Mentor Anne Kloos, PT, PhD, NCS at Ohio State.

"Every student has to have an academic mentor through the Albert Schweitzer program," Kloos said. "I helped Sarah with her application and met with her to see how the project was going and to give her a lot of positive feedback and encouragement."

Kloos was not only helpful off of the dance floor; she even attended a few of Sarah's classes.

"Sarah picked really good oldies [music] with a strong beat; it instantly made you want to move," Kloos gushed. "When I arrived, the memory unit residents were all sitting in chairs, not talking. It was phenomenal to see how some of them perked up when the music came on."

Sarah's Next Steps

Bringing her love of dance and her joy of working with the elderly was only the first step in Kidd's choreographed plan.

Kidd is currently in a physical therapy geriatric residency program at First Community Village, which will take her through the month of July 2017. That following spring, she will take an exam to be a geriatric certified specialist (GCS), just like her mentor.

"I want to continue working with the elderly; I would love to stay with First Community Village if possible," Kidd said. "My dream is to become a certified specialist in geriatrics so I can be the best at caring for the elderly population."

Those who know Kidd believe that her dream is not far out of reach - and maybe even more than that.

"I think she's going to be a real leader. She's a fantastic clinician," Kloos enthused. "She's very effective at communicating with people, so I think she will continue to offer these community programs."

As for the future of Dance for Health? No one has picked it up yet, but Kidd hopes to fit it into her busy residency schedule so her students can keep tapping their feet to the likes of Ray Charles and Rosemary Clooney.


Contact: Sarah Kidd, kidd.124@osu.edu