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Dance to Health: an arts-based solution to falls among older people

Courtesy of Aesop.

Dance to Health is an imaginative and successful response to falls among older people. It ‘smuggles’ evidence-based exercise programmes into creative, social and engaging dance activity with dance professionals. 

The programme brings together expertise in health and the arts, and is supported by Arts Council England alongside funders and health bodies. It is the brainchild of the arts for health group Aesop.

You can read the latest annual report on the programme here.

Falls are the most frequent and serious type of accident in people aged 65 and over. 25% of ambulance calls are due to older people’s falls. Afterwards, an older person is 50% likely to have seriously impaired mobility and 10% will die within a year. Falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence as well as costing the NHS £2.3 billion per year.

Many of the programmes offered to support people after a fall have been unexciting and not very successful.  Aesop’s Dance to Health pilots have been much more promising. Comparing approaches evalutors found that:

  • Recruitment is a problem with many traditional schemes. The programmes are ‘dull as ditchwater’ (RCP Clinical Falls Lead). Dance to Health has waiting lists.
  • 60% who agree to join don’t complete. Dance to Health pilots are showing better retention.
  • Only 38% use the evidence-based programmes which can reduce falls by 55%. Dance to Health uses these programmes.
  • Maintenance programmes are rare and, without them, improvements are lost in 12 months. Dance to Health offers maintenance programmes at no cost to the health system.

The College of Medicine was pleased to partner with Aesop on its major conference on Arts for Health at the South Bank Centre last year.  You can find out more about its work bringing the two sectors together to create better health here.