Adapted Tango: bringing artistry to rehabilitation

Adapted tango, a version of traditional Argentine tango modified to address motor impairments, has been shown to improve balance, mobility, and cognition in older adults and patients with Parkinson disease, with better compliance than conventional rehabilitation.

Carlos and Rosa Perez are dancers and teachers at the Club Sunderland.

Carlos and Rosa Perez are dancers and teachers at the Club Sunderland.

By Madeleine E. Hackney PhD
Individuals with Parkinson disease (PD) experience reduced mobility from postural instability, bradykinesia (extreme slowness of movement), rigidity, turning difficulty, and freezing. These problems frequently lead to falls and withdrawal from society. A 2004 study showed that 70% of patients fell within a one-year period, and 50% of them fell again the following year. In addition, individuals with PD are 3.2 times more likely to sustain a hip fracture than people of similar age without PD. Older adults without PD also experience similar problems with walking, balance, and mobility. As pharmacological and surgical methods remain only partially effective in treating symptoms of PD, and fall risk and related injury are prevalent among older adults in this population, additional, non-pharmacol­ogical approaches that address balance and gait impairments are necessary.

Exercise for older adults with and without PD is crucial for maintaining their health and independence. Habitual participation in physical activity, even when begun late in life, can improve postural and motor control in older individuals. Activities that engage older individuals and sustain interest are especially needed, as approximately 60% of Americans older than 65 years do not achieve the recommended daily amount of physical activity. Activity levels in individuals with PD are reduced even further, being roughly 15% lower than that of the same age group without PD.

Adapted tango has the same spirit and structure as traditional Argentine tango, with aspects thought to be beneficial for patients with PD.

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