Preventing Falls Using Dance, Dance to Health

older people taking part in jopyful movement session while seated

The arts touch us all. Imagine a world without music, film, theatre, dance or photography. It would be bland and joyless.

We are all passionate about the arts: the music track that makes you get up and dance; the poem that feels as though it’s speaking directly to you; and those big, communal artistic occasions – Glastonbury, the opening ceremony of the London Olympics – which stay with you forever. The arts communicate to us all, bridging divides and breaking down barriers. They have the power to change, even shatter perceptions, in an instant. They can compel us to act, to change. They can transform individuals and societies.

Aesop is a charity that harnesses the power of the arts to help solve society’s big challenges.

Their lead programme addresses the challenge of older people falling. One in three people aged over 65 fall each year. In Scotland, more than 18,000 older people are admitted to hospital after a fall each year.

Sadly, having a fall is often the start of a downward spiral. Falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence. About 1 in 10 older people who fall become afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.

This challenge is going to get bigger. Scotland’s population is continuing to age, with a 50% increase in over 60s projected by 2033.

Dance to Health’s approach to meeting this challenge is to recruit experienced community dance artists. They then train as ‘Postural Stability Instructors’ – the recognized qualification for falls prevention exercise. Lastly they learn how to smuggle Postural Stability into creative dance.

Dance to Health then set up classes for groups of people, in their community or online. The fun, creative nature of the classes aims to increase engagement so more people take part and continue to do so for longer periods of time.

The Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University was commissioned to evaluate Dance to Health. They concluded:

  • Dance to Health offers the health system an effective and cost-effective means to address the issue of older people’s falls.
  • Dance to Health reduces falls by 58%
  • If an older person visits A&E because of a fall, the likelihood of their becoming an in-patient is 35%. This reduces to 13% for Dance to Health participants.
  • Dance to Health’s fidelity to existing physiotherapy programmes was confirmed.
  • As a result of Dance to Health:
    • 96% of participants report becoming more physically active,
    • 96% report increased mental wellbeing,
    • 87% report making new friends.
  • 98% of participants said they would recommend the Dance to Health programme to people who have fallen or who are at risk of falling.

3 people young and older making creative movement

Equally as impressive as the evidence above is the feedback received directly from participants:

I can feel my legs are stronger. I went to a family christening at the weekend and my relatives couldn’t believe the difference in me. My entire posture has changed.

When I leave here I feel elated – it sort of uplifts you. Gives you a lovely feeling. I can come in depressed and go out feeling on top of the world.

After retirement my mobility had become increasingly compromised, by worn out, stiff and painful hips. After each session I was able to stand up straight instead of being stooped, if only temporarily, and move about more freely.

Dance to Health currently works with a wide range of organisations in England and Wales. Customers include Hywel Dda University Health Board, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Birmingham City Council Adult Social Services, Walsall Council Public Health, Anchor Care Homes and Age UK.

Dance to Health is exploring how best to support healthcare organisations in Scotland and welcomes conversations with anyone who would like to collaborate.

To find out more about Dance to Health, feel free to get in touch with Ben Worth, Head of Business Development & Marketing, t: 07723 310 714 / e: benworth@ae-sop.org

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