Canadian Dance Instructor, Jill Simpson, is the Developer and Director of both the Body, Mind, and Movement Program for Brain Fitness and Dancing with disAbility. She is also the Research Lead in the Dignity and Vitality in Dementia Study and works as a consultant on new and innovative ways to better care for those living with dementia.
Scientific research points to the positive impact of dance and music on the brain, and no one would agree more than Kitchener dance instructor Jill Simpson, the developer of two unique programs which use dance, specific movement patterns, and simultaneous cognitive exercise to keep healthy brains active, impaired brains stimulated, and struggling bodies mobile and graceful.
Dancing with disAbility is a new program designed for participants with movement disorder issues. In 2016 Dancing with disAbility launched it’s first program and has grown continuously. The mandate of the Dancing with disAbility is to create a broad-based community of people with physical disabilities who come together with a common goal and in support of one another. Dancing with disAbility consists of participants with MS, cerebral palsy, stroke deficits, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, and other rarer movement disorders.
Dance and physical storytelling, as Simpson calls it, transfer the command centre for movement to a different part of the brain. Someone with a movement disorder might struggle to move an arm, yet unconsciously dance that same action fluidly, just as someone who stutters might sing. For people with MS, cerebral palsy, stroke-related issues, or Parkinson’s the program is a huge confidence builder, and many are able to take the techniques they learn and apply them to life outside of class.
Simpson’s other project, the Body, Mind, and Movement Program for Brain Fitness grew out of her work with the Alzheimer Society’s Minds in Motion® program. Building upon her experience, Simpson’s research took the concept of using physical activity to stimulate the brain to yet another level. By adding dance, rhythm patterns, and concurrent cognitive exercise, the program constantly challenges the brain in new and fun ways stimulating and building new neural pathways.
Growing awareness of the ever increasing Alzheimer’s crisis, has triggered tremendous interest in the Body, Mind, and Movement Program for Brain Fitness, and classes are now offered throughout Kitchener, Waterloo, Elmira, and Guelph/Eramosa.