Older adults dance online

Hannah Reynolds, Company Director of Imagination Arts, graduated from the University of Roehampton in 2017, where she gained a First Class Honours Degree in Drama, Theatre and Performance. Hannah’s first job out of university was a Dance Specialist at a Disability Foundation before she left to set up Imagination Arts in April 2018. Here she gives her experience of teaching dance to older adults in lockdown:

Imagination Arts is a business-focused around fighting social isolation and bringing people together. This meant the COVID-19 pandemic really hit hard. We could no longer provide the face-to-face dance classes we so loved doing, and the fear of our participants’ increase in loneliness as a result of lockdown was a real worry for us. However, we were determined to keep working through the ‘lockdown’ and started to take our classes online.

Thankfully, we were able to move 4 out of our 6 Movement to Music classes for over 60s online, with the majority of our participants continuing to take part in the weekly classes. It has been really lovely to keep this contact with our participants, as so many of them rely on our weekly class as a regular form of contact with the outside world. We continue to have our social time at the end of class, which always ends up with a lot of smiles and giggles! One of the more positive aspects that has come out of this pandemic, is the fact we can reach participants all over the country now, with all of them expressing an interest to carry on with the class when we return to some sort of normality. Lots of the organisations and venues we work with have also welcomed our online sessions and we thank them for coping with the technical issues in the beginning. After learning the ropes at the start of lockdown we now run fantastic, fully adapted classes online.

We’re so excited to be offering a whole week of classes in our Online Summer Workshop Week, with classes for ages 2 – 102 and specialist SEND; Dementia and Parkinson’s classes available as well. We would have never had the money or the time to be able to run such a full timetable of classes in a week if we were offering this face-to-face, so we have certainly found a silver lining in the pandemic. We can’t wait to be able to meet new and returning participants over this week and look forward to sharing our love of inclusive dance with them all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult – financially; emotionally and socially – but it has, at least, reinforced the importance of the social element in dance. Imagination Arts has always believed that dance is the medicine for loneliness, and we now know this to be truer than ever.

Tips for teaching older adults online:

1. Be patient! Lots of your participants may not be familiar or comfortable with using a computer or the internet, so allow time for them to find their way around the platform. Your first couple of sessions may be more ‘how to use your platform’ rather than diving straight into a full-on dance class.

2. Be aware! You must make it clear to your participants (and staff) that you are able to see their surroundings and vice versa. Your safeguarding policies will need to be changed and adapted for online sessions, but the premise will always be the same – your participants’ safety and wellbeing are at the forefront of each class. Take note of anything that looks out of place or anything behaviour that seems ‘out of sorts’ from your participants.

3. Be creative! We’ve had some of our most exciting classes online over lockdown, as you can really make the most of the surroundings your participants are in. We’ve used costumes and props they can find in their homes, as well as doing a mini ‘scavenger hunt’ where they’ve got to find items in their surroundings for different tasks! This is always great fun, but just take care with older and ‘at risk’ adults that they have the time and space to be able to find things around their home.

 

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