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Dance On

Fun, social dance sessions for over 50's in Doncaster

Three women smiling and dancing at a Dance On event run by darts at The Point in Doncaster


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Dance On is fun, local and social, and is aimed at raising activity levels and reducing isolation in older adults across the city of Doncaster. It is a really great way for people to get moving, keep fit, feel healthy and make friends. Whatever your level of ability or mobility, you can take part in a way that suits you – whether that’s sitting, standing or boogying around the room. Although it’s for over 50s, the average age of participants currently is 76 years old.

We run weekly community sessions for the general public in Edlington, Stainforth, Auckley, Bessacarr and at our home, The Point, in central Doncaster. We also run regular Dance On groups within our partner organisations; Age UK Doncaster at Silver Link Centre and in residential care settings in Woodlands, Armthorpe, Thorne, Balby and Bessacarr, where we have worked with staff to support them to deliver weekly dance sessions for their clients or residents.

Who is Dance On For?
Dance On is for anyone over 50, male or female, seated or standing. It is suitable for all abilities and mobilities, and we aim to make it as inclusive and accessible as possible. Anyone can turn up to any session regardless of where you live in Doncaster – some even access different groups across the city depending on their weekly commitments. There is a small subsidised fee to the classes, with most sessions costing £3 (payable on the day). All sessions that are open to the general public are drop in, so you don’t have to book. To find out where our current Dance On sessions for over 50s are happening across Doncaster, click here.

Our approach

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A group of older adults are seating on chairs in rows. Their arms are stretched diagonally wide apart, one hand reaching up, the other reaching down. Part of a Dance On session for over 50s run by darts in Doncaster.

Unlike many dance classes for adults that focus on a specific style of dance (like Zumba or line dancing), our Dance On sessions have been specially designed to be accessible, human-centred and inclusive. We focus on the joy and benefits (both physical and social) of getting everyone in the room moving together, as much or as little as suits their body.

To do this, we blend a wide range of music and dance styles to ensure that there is something for everyone. In a Dance On session, you might find yourself dancing to anything from musicals to Motown, with some disco, belly dancing or contemporary dance in between. Participants don’t have to remember long or complicated routines – it is just a chance to move and improve your body, leave your daily concerns at the door, and to connect socially with others.

Every Dance On session follows a ‘recipe of ingredients’ such as joint mobilisers (like circling wrists), raised cardio (an upbeat boogie or some ‘keep fit’), balance and strength work (exercises using the chair for support), something to connect everyone (like a simple circle dance or partner work), creativity (using props, imagination or visualisation), stretches (to extend muscles we may not use every day), breath work (to focus on ourselves) and time to relax, along with many chances to sing along to favourite songs and have some fun with each other. We aim for everyone to feel fully part of the session, without feeling either excluded, or ‘on view’.

Our dance team is made up of highly skilled, passionate and professional dance artists with a wide range of expertise and qualifications; including falls prevention, Dementia Friends training and training with those living with long term conditions such as Long Covid/ COPD, so we can really tailor sessions to work well for everyone in the room.

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The research

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Two women stretching their arms out in Dance On with darts in Doncaster.

We have worked closely with the University of Leeds to study the benefits of dance for older adults and the impacts of Dance On in terms of health and wellbeing. A brochure with key findings can be downloaded here and the full mixed methodology study by the University of Leeds can be downloaded here.

Increase in Physical Activity (PA)
• Analysis of that data showed that the prevalence of participants classed as active, increased from 25% at baseline to 55% in 12 months.
• the data showed that PA levels remained stable throughout the programme.
• The increases in PA were also mirrored by an increase in participants self-rated health status.

Falls Prevention
• Research examined the effect of participation in Dance On on physical and psychosocial risk factors for falls. Adherence to the programme was high with participants attending on average 76% of sessions over a 6-month period.
• Scores from using the Falls Efficacy Scale show that there was a significant reduction in the number of people who were categorised as having a high fear of falling.
• Approximately one in three community dwelling people over 65 years of age fall at least once a year and can lead to serious long-term physical and psychological consequences, with the WHO citing falls as the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths and result in more years lived with increased mobility disability. In addition, falls impose a significant social and economic burden with the estimated to cost to the UK’s National Health Service being over £2.3 billion per year

Frailty and cost effectiveness
• Given that several studies have indicated that people who are afraid of falling appear to enter a debilitating spiral of loss of confidence, restriction of physical activities and social participation leading to physical frailty… it could be dance programmes like ‘Dance On’ have a part to play in preventing frailty in community dwelling older adults.
• At baseline 30% of participants met criteria that suggested they were ‘pre frail.’ This decreased to 13% at 3 and 6 months, tentatively suggesting participation in Dance On could stop the downward spiral into frailty.
• The cost effectiveness analysis shows that the Dance On programme was 94% likely to be cost effective for community dwelling older adults ages 60-80 years over a 3-month period.
• This essentially means that the savings from attendance outweigh all the other costs associated with hospital admission, medications, mobility aids and the cost of dance session over the specified time.

The research illustrates that the Dance On programme offers a significant opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of older people, specifically older inactive women in lower socio-economic areas, by increasing physical activity levels, and modifying physical (balance) and psychosocial (fear of falling) risk factors for falls.

Dance On Toolkit

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In 2023 darts, One Dance UK, the University of Leeds and Yorkshire Dance launched the Dance On toolkit to get more people moving. Based on over 7 years of academic research, sessions to develop the approach, conversations with participants, and experiences of working with older adults, the Dance On toolkit is aimed at dancers, care home staff, public health professionals, health & social care practitioners, and anyone who has an interest in the power of movement to give our ageing population more years better lived.

The free, downloadable resource condenses the key essential ingredients into an easy to read and accessible document.  From sourcing the right venue to choosing motivating music, from developing community ambassadors to writing risk assessments, this Toolkit provides bite sized ideas, case studies and templates for anyone looking to develop their own dance programme for older people, or for dancers or care staff to improve their practice.

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