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Dance ‘champions’ needed to promote health benefits among older people – survey

Dancers at Aesop's Arts in Health conference at Southbank Centre. Photo: Helen Murray
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New research has highlighted the benefits of dancing for older people, but warns that better connections must be made between the dance sector and health organisations if it is to be taken up more widely.

The first ever survey of its kind, it claims “champions” of dance are needed to highlight the creative, social and well-being benefits of dance.

The study, by arts charity Aesop and community dance organisation People Dancing, was conducted to provide a “snapshot” of current practice in older people’s dance.

It comprises an online survey, collecting data from 173 projects and groups and telephone interviews, undertaken between March and April 2016.

Called Older People’s Dance Activities – the First UK Survey, it claims the dance sector has a “real appetite” to work with health sector professionals, but that “support is needed to articulate the case more effectively”.

Aesop recently ran a pilot programme, Dance to Health, which integrated fall prevention exercises into dance.

The company’s founder and chief executive Tim Joss said the survey process had been an inspiration into looking more closely at how to create further alternatives to NHS services, particularly those that prevent falls among older people.

The report continues: ”Addressing the challenge of how this belief in dance can be embedded within health organisations will be crucial to the development at scale in this field.”

One of the survey respondents called for greater support in getting dance taken more seriously by GPs, it says.

The report also said that helping dance artists and practitioners talk about their work to people outside the sector could “unlock new partnerships and supporters, and will be key to increasing both provision and new employment opportunities”.

Peer-to-peer learning and mentoring could help diversify and expand the field, the report added, while accessible development opportunities and training could be more readily available for those addressing age or health issues.

“For dance, this practice appears to be coming of age: a change in the representation of the art form in words, images and programming would help place older people dancing as the norm, and not the exception,” the report concluded.

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