Dance to Health

A pioneering project to tackle falls in older people

We all know the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’ – and that’s exactly what Dance to Health aims to demonstrate. Falls in older people are a real concern and a high cost for our health services, so we have worked with partners to test a new approach to using dance as ‘prevention’ before the ‘cure’ is needed.

What we did

Dance to Health uses dance and two evidence-based falls prevention programmes, FaME and Otago. Led by arts charity Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose (Aesop) in partnership with dance organisations across England including South East Dance, a six-month pilot began in November 2015 in Oxfordshire with lead artist Angela Conlan. Under Angela’s guidance, dance artists, Rhonda Sparrey and Paula Bailey, led and developed twice-weekly creative classes in two health and well-being centres to build confidence, balance, flexibility and friendships with the participants.

“ I hope this programme continues and thrives as its benefits are not just withphysical health but also contribute to mental well-being, dispelling social isolation and building friendship groups among those finding it difficult to have opportunities to be interactive with others.”
Bernadette Balfe, Peer Motivator Dance to Health Banbury

What we achieved

At the end of the pilot, participants came together for a joyful celebration of the positive effects of the programme. The pilot created 989 opportunities for older people to experience the health and well-being benefits of dance and in Oxfordshire we achieved a 73% participant completion rate – the highest in the national programme. The average national completion rate for FaME and Otago programmes without Dance to Health is just 40%. As of summer 2016, Aesop are working with Clinical Commissioning Groups and other potential funders to roll out the programme more widely in the future.

“73% is a pretty amazing result. None of our other research projects boast such a high adherence rate to creative activities. So very well done indeed!”
Dr Trish Vella-Burrows RN PhD BA (Hons) FRSPH Deputy
Director, Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts & Health

Linda's Story

Linda is retired and from Abingdon. Before taking part in Dance to Health, Linda had a knee replacement – it didn’t go too well and she really struggled with mobility in her daily life afterwards. Using stairs, for example, was a regular challenge. And in spite of having physiotherapy, her quest for increased mobility and the freedom that goes with it was slow.

It took persuasion from a friend to convince Linda to join the Dance to Health classes - she had never danced before, so wasn’t keen. But after the first class, everything changed…

“Before the project, I wouldn’t have thought of it (dance) – absolutely no way. When I retired, I just went to the gym and did an aerobics class, but had to stop that because of my knee. Now the classes have given me a lot more mobility – I love it!

After six months of dance and movement sessions through Dance to Health, Linda found a new lease of life. She has developed the mobility to climb stairs again, discovered a new circle of friends and is determined to keep dancing.

“I’ve been on my own for 17 years – in other social situations I feel like the odd one out, but at the classes I’m not. The fact that you can exercise with others makes it fun – it’s the social side of it as much as anything else. We do have a laugh!”

Linda enjoyed the classes so much that she travelled to the Southbank Centre in London to speak about her experience to arts and health professionals at the first national Arts in Health Conference & Showcase, organised by Aesop – something she never dreamt she’d have the opportunity or confidence to do.

“There are lots of things that I wouldn’t do before that I am doing now. The experience has been wonderful – it’s made me feel alive!

© Helen Murray
Dance to Health

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