With the vaccination programme proceeding as planned across the country, care homes are finally able to offer themed nights and entertainment programmes inviting external performers again.
Engaging with music, dance and food from different cultures is a great way to stir conversation, create bonding experiences and offer new and unusual perspectives. According to the Social Care Institute for Excellence, dance has positive effects on residents’ mood and increases levels of trust towards carers. Of course, it’s also good for physical health.
Dancing makes people feel happy, and while many people feel shy about dancing in front of their peers in their younger years, research has shown that with age often comes less inhibition.
Dancing doesn’t need to be athletic exercise that is hard on joints or overly challenging on stamina. Above anything else, it’s fun movement to music, and that can be executed at any age and any mobility level. Even tapping the foot or nodding the head to the beat of the music has been shown to improve mood and lift the spirit.
Dance can be incorporated into everyday life in care homes in many different ways, from regular classes to one-off workshops and entertainment.
Regular classes increase fitness and strength, build community cohesion and offer opportunities for socialising over a shared interest. One-off workshops and entertainment create special occasions encouraging residents to dress up, be creative and feel special.
Especially themed entertainment days offer plenty of ways for everyone to join in according to their interests, from crafting decorations to sewing costumes, and from creating and cooking an out-of-the-ordinary menu to engaging with a foreign culture through its music and dance.
Expert entertainers can share their craft in an extravagant performance and then involve residents in a dance class, which can be tailored to the mobility needs and previous dance experience of the residents. This type of entertainment can even mimic the benefits of memory therapy.
How the session is delivered matters more than what dance style is presented. The show and session need to be delivered with plenty of energy and enthusiasm. The performer needs to have a high degree of sensitivity for the individual residents’ varying needs for attention and support. The space the activity is held in needs to allow for people to step into the foreground if they wish to, but also to retreat.
Performers will often bring props that make their dance style approachable and fun to engage with. They will be able to not just deliver their dance session, but also to make it accessible by chatting about their culture, the costumes and music to the residents. Altogether, they will create a memorable experience that can be captured and live on in photos.
The benefits of a smiling face, physical movement and the joy of music can’t be underestimated and giving dance a central role in care homes is finding ever more support through research and in day-to-day experience.
Lucia Schweigert is a Flamenco dancer and founder of Lucidez Dance. She performs at private parties and corporate events and specialises in providing Spanish theme entertainment for care homes. She gained a BA Hons in Theatre Dance at London Studio Centre, one of London’s prestigious performing arts colleges and has 10+ years’ experience of performing in a wide variety of settings and for people aged 3 to 100. Born in Germany and based in London for 14 years, her heritage spans from Eastern Europe to Latin America. She is a registered sole trader in the UK, professional member of Equity, DBS checked and carries public liability insurance.