Minimizing Memory Loss

Ron and Barb Luginbill are having more fun in retirement than they ever thought possible – and a good part of that is their weekly dancing date at Fred Astaire Dance Studio. 

Although they didn’t realize it when they first started dancing 15 years ago, their ballroom hobby has been an important part of keeping them on their toes physically, and mentally too. Research shows that ballroom dance is a great way to ward off Alzheimer’s and Dementia, according to studies by Stanford University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Barb’s mom is 94 and battling Alzheimer’s, so she’s especially aware of the benefits of ballroom.  

Research reveals that avid reading reduces risk of Dementia by 35 percent; doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week reduces risk by 47 percent; dancing frequently reduces risk of memory loss by a whopping 76 percent. 

“You have to be nimble when you dance,” says Barb. “It helps your balance, and realizing what my mother’s facing makes me want to do the best I can do.” 

The Luginbills, ages 70 and 69, respectively, live in Troy and have two grown children and five grandchildren. They enjoy the camaraderie and challenge of FADS’ weekly class for seniors, led by instructor Donald Westphal. 

“It is an absolute blast to work with the seniors,” says Westphal, who leads anywhere from 12 to 40 seniors every Tuesday. “We work on technique for balance and coordination as well as memory and cognition. I switch up regular patterns to build muscle memory and keep them on their toes. That way, they can be more aware while they’re dancing, thinking through what we’re doing for more cognitive engagement.” 

Jon Petre, 81, is another dance devotee. The Bloomfield Hills resident and retired tool-and-die manufacturer has been “dancing all my life,” first in his native Romania, and later when he “ran away from the Communists” and lived in Italy and later still, after he emigrated to the United States. He grew up in a family of dancers and his first week in America in 1965, he found a dance at the American Polish Cultural Center and took to the parquet. 

He’s been dancing at FADS for three years, coming every Tuesday and two Saturdays a month. “Dance keeps me happy,” says Petre. “The music stays with you.” 

Petre competes in dance competitions from time to time, taking home medals. “I love everything about dance,” he says. “It keeps your mind sharp.  

Watch these TV segments we recently coordinated to showcase the long-term health benefits of ballroom dance!