Teen’s group sparks joy in Alzheimer’s patients through dance, music
Rancho Santa Fe’s Maddy Goldman is using her artistic gifts in dance and music as a method of memory care. The rising senior at La Jolla Country Day School founded Dancers and Singers for a Cause, an organization that has middle school and high school students performing for seniors who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Maddy has been dancing since was three years old and started taking ballet at five. She dances six days a week at Ballet Arte in Solana Beach, specializing in classical and contemporary ballet, placing in the top 12 in contemporary and top 24 in classical at Youth America Grand Prix San Diego competitions. Last summer, she attended the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive in New York City.
As a singer, she has been singing with concert choir at La Jolla Country Day since middle school and joined the honors madrigal choir her junior year.
For Maddy, the cause she picked is extremely personal—when she was a freshman in high school, she sadly watched her grandpa struggle with Alzheimer’s. It broke her heart that he lost his memory and that their relationship felt disconnected. As it had become difficult to communicate with him, one day she decided to try to connect with him through dance.
“It completely worked, he loved it and the biggest smile spread across his face,” Maddy said. “From then on I’d always try to connect with him through dance or playing or singing a song because music has that connection with people.”
Her grandfather moved into a senior memory care center at Villa Lorena (formerly Casa Aldea near Santaluz) but he passed away within two weeks. Maddy turned her grief into helping others—a few months after her grandfather passed away, she contacted Villa Lorena about performing for other residents.
“It had helped us connect so much and it had brought him so much joy, I realized it was important to continue sharing the joy of dance and music,” Maddy said.
Starting in ninth grade, she performed over a dozen times at Villa Lorena and multiple times at the Vi at La Jolla Village.
“Every time I begin dancing, smiles and laughs fill the room. It’s really heartwarming…You can see the sparkle in their eyes,” Maddy said. “A lot of times there are old dancers in the room. They’ll recognize the music and start doing the arms in their chair.”
At first, Maddy performed for residents by herself but then recruited fellow young artists from her dance studio and choir to join. The group has expanded every year to include 16 performers from LJCDS, Ballet Arte, Academy of Classical Ballet, Canyon Crest Academy and San Dieguito Academy.
“It’s valuable to have a group of performers because there’s so much more variety,” she said.
After the performances, the group takes the time to engage with the residents one on one. Maddy also started a flex time class at La Jolla Country Day where they create seasonal crafts, such as paper flowers and Valentine’s Day cards, to give to the seniors.
Maddy is continuing to work on expanding Dancers and Singers for a Cause, looking to add more facilities in the area for performances and even collaborating with other dancers and studios as far away as New York—her movement could soon be nationwide.
Giving back to her community and helping others is a career goal for Maddy. She is currently interning and volunteering at two legal aid/social justice organizations in San Diego and hopes to become an attorney.
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