I have been keeping busy recently devising and running workshops for Dance in Devon in some of our local care homes and supporting the social activity coordinators in their journey towards delivering dance sessions. Silver Dancers is a countywide initiative by our dance agency Dance in Devon offering older people in residential care access to a quality arts experience as participants and audiences.

The more I run music and movement sessions in care homes the more I truly believe in the importance of movement and music and the huge capacity that these things have for improving mental and physical well-being. It’s actually really hard to explain on paper the beautiful moments that we see in front of us, moments of transformation, awakening and joy. However, the moments aren’t always beautiful at all!

Sometimes it’s difficult and older people can get frustrated with mobility issues or just not being able to do something that they used to do with their bodies. The beauty of movement and music is that it is incredibly inclusive, participants can do as much or as little as they like. Just being present is enough, the music we use can be familiar or new and it provides an anchor to set sail from.

Not only do the residents benefit enormously from the humanity and warmth of dance sessions but, the staff also have a great excuse to have some fun a wiggle, a giggle as they pass through the room. Or, small movements and a smile as they sit with a resident. Relatives who attend have told me that they time their visit to come to dance in order to do something uplifting with a family member.

As a facilitator I like to tailor musical choices to encompass peoples tastes and they are wide ranging. In the past few years I have worked with dancers that are inspired to move along with Elvis, Vivaldi, The Wurzels, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Salsa, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, African drums, nursery rhymes, folk songs, Black Lace, Belly dance, hand clapping, sounding, playing percussion, The Who? and of course the original rock ‘n roll generation still love the sounds of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers.

Dance is a very emotive word what ever age we are and can evoke feelings of dread as well as feelings of excitement. Feeling the music, moving and watching dancing on the one hand is very therapeutic and at the very least a good laugh with friends!

Sometime when I have told people that I work with dance and dementia have looked at me with incredulity. How can someone with dementia or who is unable to get out of their chair possibly dance? I think this reaction is just about expectations around what dance is about how we define dance.

Dance starts with a feeling inside, from the belly, from the heart. It is not about making grand gestures and owning the dance floor, although for sure sometimes that’s how it ends up, it’s not the goal. If there is a goal it is to feel better after than we did before! The action of being moved by music is science, it stimulates the brain, the nervous system, the muscles in the body, causing an increase in dopamine levels. It’s a no brainer!

We must have more dance and more trained dance leaders especially as our ageing population expands. The more we move and encourage others to dance the more we lighten the load all round.

If you would like dance in a care home you own, manage or run activities for do get in touch with Jennie or Dance in Devon and follow this blog to see our progress.