Dancing to better health
03 September 2019 | North West England
Falls Prevention Dance Programme helps older people remain independent for longer.
In a church hall, a group of older people smile as they dance together.
But this is much more than an opportunity to get on their feet, and recall the dance halls and discos of their youth.
It is also a pioneering health initiative that could help them stay independent for longer, and save the NHS billions of pounds.
As well as keeping to the rhythm, they are learning to avoid the danger of falls through the power of dance.
Falls are traumatic for older people and a major challenge for the health system. They destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence, costing the NHS £2.3 billion a year.
But this fun new initiative is trying to limit the number of potential casualties.
The Falls Prevention Dance programme is a national scheme launched by Dance to Health that combines evidence-based falls prevention principles with the creativity, expression and energy of dance. The sessions are led by professional dance artists from leading dance companies who have been fully trained and qualified in falls prevention exercise methods.
The Congleton Big Heart Foundation, the social arm of the Congleton Reform Church, is the latest to pioneer sessions in their area.
Reverend Murray George, 59, who facilitates the sessions, explained: “It is a fantastic programme. No dance experience is necessary and even if you require walking aids you can take part.
“I have been along to watch and - as well as the health benefits - it is just great to see how it makes these older people feel young again. It certainly gives them the confidence to live the life they want and deserve.
“We have a trained instructor come in every week. The class is popular and more and more are joining all the time. It’s very necessary with an ageing population and increasing mobility needs.
“It helps through dance and movement and helps maintain fitness and balance, and obviously aims to prevent falls. The longer people can maintain mobility the better.
“When you age you lose muscle mass. And if you sit around for long periods of time - which older people do - it accelerates that loss.
“But dance is about moving and using the muscles and increasing muscle memory. It is also about building awareness and good habits. The scheme is not only preventative it also helps those who have had falls or accidents and are in recovery. This is a great way to help their rehabilitation.”
Rev Murray added: “It’s more than that though, it is a social thing too. It gets people out of the house and meeting new people. We also offer a lunch club for older people, and after the dance session we are now seeing more people come along to the lunch too. That is lovely to see.
The Falls Prevention Dance Programme was launched by Dance to Health, which was devised and is managed by Aesop, a social enterprise and charity. New programmes are opening around the country every day.