West Hartford woman dances for brain power - WFSB 3 Connecticut

West Hartford woman dances for brain power

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West Hartford woman dances for brain power (WFSB) West Hartford woman dances for brain power (WFSB)

A Connecticut woman is headed to a national dance championship to show that dancing can help your body and mind. 

West Hartford resident Mary Dougherty said she is ready to dance.

"She's up or anything,” said Clemens Lengenfelder, who is a dance instructor with the Fred Astaire Dance Studio. “She spins. She flips...She dips. She chimays."

Dougherty is 89 years old.

Whether it is a tango on a Tuesday, or a Friday foxtrot, Dougherty exercises her mind and body by 'cutting a rug' at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in West Hartford.

"It's challenging, but it’s very rewarding too,” Dougherty said.

This salsa'ing senior said she's wanted to ballroom dance since she was a little girl. Now she stays fit for her flock of 13 grandchildren, and three great grandchildren, by simply dancing.

"I think it keeps me sharp,” Dougherty said. “I really do."

According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, frequent participation in ballroom dancing led to a 76 percent risk reduction in dementia.

"Dancing is a very complex activity,” said Vickie Dauphinais, who is a geriatric nurse practitioner at St. Francis Hospital. “It integrates multiple parts of the brain in doing the activity and thus it increases neuropathways in the brain."

Lengenfelder said he has seen the benefits of the ballroom with not only Dougherty, but some of his other clients who are in their 90's.   

"Don't give in,” Lengenfelder said. “Fight it as long as you can and Mary is living proof that the more you fight it the more joy."

She's also proving age is just a number, one dance at a time.

"I wouldn't be doing this still if it weren't fun! It is fun,” Dougherty said. “Now, it's the most fun I have."

Next week, Dougherty and Lengenfelder are flying down to Orlando, Fla. to compete in the national dance championships.

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