A high school student from northern New Jersey is using the power of dance to boost nursing home patients’ spirits. 

Esha Agarwal, 16, is running an original program, “Music in Motion,” for the residents of CareOne at Ridgewood Avenue, a 110-bed skilled nursing facility in Paramus, NJ. Her most recent session was Sunday and kicked off with stretching, dancing and a self-choreographed performance designed to get “seniors engaged in activities they wouldn’t normally do.”

The Music In Motion class is run in a group setting in a CareOne lounge. It utilizes a sitting-dance technique in order to allow all to participate and enhance patient morale. Residents have described the experience as “soothing” and “delightful,” while the provider sees the program as a great example of the influence of human interaction.

“The power to communicate with each other through dance is a moment that captures the imagination and sparks memories,” said Sharon Zeigler, CareOne’s executive vice president of operations. The company believes in dance as a way to open up and connect to the world, possibly raising hopes that it can bring residents’ minds back to a pre-COVID time. 

Zeigler said the facility has been hosting the Music in Motion class at CareOne for several weeks as one of the many unique programs it has to benefit residents. She said that Agarwal, a daughter of one of the medical directors at CareOne, thought of the idea herself and volunteered to teach the class. 

“She is very effective at connecting with the patients through her infectious, happy outlook and warm smile,” Zeigler told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Thursday. “She brings the residents recovering from illness into her world and provides them with moments of joy and separation from the anxiety of their present situation.”

While the program is unique to CareOne at this point, company leaders recommend that other post-acute and nursing providers “explore the power of dance with their residents,” Zeigler said. 

“We are grateful to [Agarwal] for her vision and dedication, both of which far exceed her 16 years,” she added. 

Check out pictures of Agarwal’s class for more on the program — and lifted spirits.