CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a Friday morning at The Brookdale Senior Living Center in Lincoln Park.

About a dozen seniors gather for their weekly dance therapy program.

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“We’re trying to work on that mind-body connection,” said Erica Hornthal, founder and CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy.

Hornthal’s background is in Geriatrics.

“As a therapist in training, I always wanted to go into private practice where we could create a group practice where all populations could get the benefits of movement and dance therapy,” she said.

(Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Erica Hornthal, founder and CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Horthal started the company about five years ago. The practice focuses on movement and how it can help ease pain and stress of aging and illness.

“I quickly realized a lot of these facilities weren’t offering this kind of program,” she said.

Her two full time dance therapists travel to nursing homes, assisted living homes, day centers and community groups to work with all ages. They use a combination of music and expression through movement to dig deep into peoples’ problems and emotions.

“My youngest client is, to date, 2-3 years old. My oldest client was 107. We like to meet people where they are, what they need and use the creative arts, using movement, specifically to heal mental and physical issues,” Hornthal said.

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Hornthal said she originally specialized in memory care. Muscle memory is shown to help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients but soon enough she expanded her program to include people with anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“If you have a movement disorder, movement is actually a great way to maintain your functioning. We’re finding that exercise is necessary to continue that quality of life. When we do our Parkinson’s Dance class, we see physical benefits. When people suffer from tremors, when they are engaged in movement, especially large motor movement, the tremors dissipate. It also takes the person out of the mind set of I have a limitation,” she said.

Chicago Dance Therapy has worked with some 300 families over the years, makes home visits, travels to 10 facilities in the Chicagoland area and also has a studio in Northfield. They also are working with more children.

“We see kids with Apraxia, children with Autism, spatial awareness issues, impulse behavior problems. Parents can connect with the child on a body level and not necessarily verbally,” Hornthal said.

Hornthal said any exercise is key to longevity and good health but dance therapy is customized and most importantly, all inclusive.

“People think this is just a dance class but it’s much more than that. We encourage people to bring their walkers, bring your cane, come in a wheelchair. It’s not about what you can’t do, its about what you can,” she said.

For more information about Chicago Dance Therapy you can log onto, or call (847) 848-0697.

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(Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Meghan Murphy-Sanchez, of Chicago Dance Therapy, teaches a class at Brookdale Senior Living Center in Lincoln Park. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)