Dance for longevity…

With the rise in Covid-19 cases, Osamu and Kamal decided to conduct online dance workshops for the elderly with dementia

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic credit:

JAPANESE seems to have been bestowed with the longest average life expectancy. In 2019, the number of Japanese aged 90 had reached 2.31 million, including over 71,000 centenarians.

Of the total, people from the subtropical islands of Okinawa have the longest life expectancy among all the prefectures of Japan.

These islands are located south of mainland Japan and are, in fact, dubbed “The Land of Immortals”.

It has the largest number of centenarians in the world, which are six centenarians per 100,000 inhabitants to be exact.

It is certainly remarkable to find centenarians three times more in the Okinawa islands compared to any other country on Earth!

Cancer rates among Okinawans are low and heart complications are also rare. What’s their secret?

The Key to Longer Life

Longevity among Okinawans is somehow pegged mainly to their diet and lifestyle. Tying the factors together is their genetic make-up.

The Okinawan diet mainly consists of low calories and fat. However, it is also high in carbohydrates. The diet also features vegetables and soy products, and Okinawans consume more than five meals a day.

Occasionally, they would eat pork and fish that are rich in omega oils.

Apart from their healthy lifestyle, Okinawans lived a generally stress-free life with a positive outlook.

The Okinawans are also said to possess a strong sense of purpose and spirituality.

More Elders, Fewer Babies

Okinawans’ positive outlook also reduces the risk of dementia. However, their lifestyle might not represent the whole of Japan.

A quarter of the country’s population consists of people over 65 years, but the number is shrinking because young Japanese are having a hard time starting families.

Gender stereotypes are still prevalent in The Land of the Rising Sun. Men are still expected to be breadwinners, while women would have to do all the housework and the cooking. It would be hard for men with not-so-desired occupations to marry the right girl and have children in Japan.

The country’s work culture also emphasises on working long hours. Leaving home before the boss does is a big no-no.

Meanwhile, a decreasing youth population may also pose problems for the seniors. Currently, 4.6 million people in Japan are suffering from dementia. In 2025, one in every five people over the age of 65 is expected to have dementia.

Many families do not have the options of professional end of life care.

The responsibility of caring for the elderly is usually left on the youngest family member, which causes immense strains of pressure. It also often leads to violence.

The increasing number of dementia patients has become so severe that communities to assist them have been created as nursing homes and in-home caretakers aren’t sufficient to accommodate them.

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, 123,000 Malaysians have been diagnosed with the ailment in 2015.

However, there is also a common misconception among Malaysians who perceive Alzheimer’s disease, which is what causes dementia, as a normal part of ageing. As a result, not many Malaysians even bother to seek medical advice or be diagnosed even when they have the symptoms.

‘Totsu-Totsu’ for Dementia

The Japanese General Association (Torindo) has been organising dance performances and workshops with choreographer and dancer Jareo Osamu (picture; left) in collaboration with elderly residents, facility staff and local residents.

They have been collaborating on the project since 2009 at the Graceville Maizuru nursing home for the elderly in Maizuru City, Kyoto, in an effort to counter the increasing numbers of dementia patients.

On the local front, Kamal Sabran, a lecturer from School of the Arts at Universiti Sains Malaysia, has been researching the possibility of using music as a form of therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

With the aggressive increase in Covid-19 cases globally, Osamu and Kamal decided to conduct online dance and music workshops for the elderly with dementia called

“Totsu-Totsu Dance Online”. The word “totsu-totsu” derives from Japanese which describes a hushed and musing way of speaking. The online workshop, co-organised by the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL), will be conducted on Nov 1 from 1pm to 3.45pm (Malaysian time).

The project also includes roundtable discussions that would allow viewers from different fields to participate.

Totsu-Totsu Dance Online would be split into two sessions. The first session would take place between 1pm and 2.15pm.

Speakers during the first session would be Osamu, Kamal and Fujinami Tsutomu, professor of Intelligent Informatics at Japan Advanced Institute of Science.

Via the session, viewers could learn the effects of dance and music on the elderly with dementia and its possibilities in the field of elderly care.

The second-half (2H) session starts at 2.30pm and ends at 3.45pm with Osamu and Kamal returning once again.

The 2H session would involve aesthete Ito Asa, who is the associate professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, and visual artist and cultural worker Okui Lala.

There’s a Q&A (question and answer) session at the end of both sessions in case viewers are interested to ask more questions about the Totsu-Totsu dance.

For those who can’t speak Japanese, consecutive interpretations in both English and Japanese will be done during discussions.

Although the admission for the online workshop is free, participants are required to register.

For more information regarding Totsu-Totsu Dance Online, you can log on to