Tag Archives: collaboration

Everybody Moving – Families at Home

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With so many families stuck at home we thought we’d share ideas about how you can do movement activities throughout the day. Parents are doing a fantastic job home schooling and brain breaks are really important when learning. Also, young children learn really well whilst moving, just see our Educating Dance blogs to find out more.

Many children, and adults, are doing morning PE (us included!). This blog isn’t really designed for that, we will share some excellent PE session links soon though. This blog is about little moments of activity throughout the day for fun and for bonding.

A Little Boogie

Some of the TRS Teachers have been filming themselves dancing our participant’s favourites. Georgie has filmed I Love Rock and Roll to start with and there will be others soon. Participants from some of her dance clubs will recognise them so maybe they could teach the people they live with!

You can find the videos on our Youtube channel, therightstepdc and we have created a playlist called Everybody Moving or click on this link… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=381I6FzN7N8&list=PLVZOGYX_NfRnJ7BIb7zLlu6AkxihRbulB

Have a flick through to see what you can find. 

Paint a Dance

get a piece of paper, any size, and drop some random blobs of paint on it in lots of different colours. Play some inspirational music and let your body dance to move the blobs. This could be done with fingers and hands, feet or a paint brush! Maybe you could do a huge table sized family one?

Follow The Leader

Play some music and follow the leader. Everyone in the household has to copy the leader exactly. This could be a great way to sneakily get some chores done. You could use props too. We’ll be getting a list of props we have at home out soon!

Disco Dress Up

Find sparkly clothes, accessories and wigs. Use whatever you can find. Put the disco music on, turn it up and have a family disco!

Trigger Word

This one gives the adults some power! Think of a trigger word and choose a movement such as an octopus wiggle or freeze shape such as a star (arms and legs out). Whenever the trigger word is shouted throughout the day, the children have to do the movement or freeze shape. You could also do a run to the nearest wall when the trigger word is shouted.

Air Guitar

Put on some classic rock and air guitar your hearts out.

Make a Shape

Choose a shape announcer or take turns. Say a shape and see how you can make that shape with your body. Try using your whole body, not just your hands. We’d love to see them so please share your ideas.

Material Fun

You need a quite a large piece of material that you can hold onto such as a single bed sheet or large towel and a small ball, or a few balls. Each hold a bit of the material, put the balls on and see if you can keep them there. Balfour Infants School demonstrate in the photo.

Adapt an Action Song

Choose a fun action song like the Cha cha slide or YMCA. The challenge is to change some of the movements to make your family’s own actions!

Dance Game

Not strictly all about moving, but a really fun idea. Older children could design a dance board game for the family to do. Forfeits must be dance related. Our mini challenges blog might be inspiring. 

Just a few ideas. We will add more so keep an eye out. You can also read more on our other blog posts.

Everybody Moving

Everybody Moving – Care Homes

 

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Everybody Moving – In Care Homes

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The second in our series of Everybody Moving blog posts is aimed at residents in care homes, but I’m sure there are ideas for everyone.
 

Some mood boosting ideas that can be used throughout the day! We really miss the care home residents we work with. Our Active Armchairs sessions are some of the most rewarding things we do.

 
Care homes were one of the first places to realise the danger of Covid-19 and they shut their doors to visitors a long time ago. Isolating the vulnerable people living in care homes was a really good idea, but it has meant a big reduction in activity specialists, such as ourselves, coming in for a visit.
Although many dance and exercise companies have decided to move their lessons online, this just wasn’t possible for Active Armchairs. For health and safety reasons as well as due to the key important aspects of Active Armchairs, we are unable to offer that option. We hope that the ideas below will go some way to helping the fantastic Activity Co-ordinators, who are so important to residents, to keep everyone moving.
 

Name and Move

An adaption on the well loved Name and Shape… Take it in turns. Each person says their name and does a movement. Everyone else copies by saying the name and doing the movement. You can do this at the table waiting for food or in the living room. It could also be done from the room doorways if needed at the moment. It might be difficult to see each other, but some one could move along the corridor to help out.
 

A Dance a long

Some of the TRS Teachers have been filming their favourite dances. We’ve created a playlist called Everybody Moving and it contains both Active Armchairs exercises and dances as well as other ideas for people of various ages and abilities. You can have a flick through on our YouTube channel and we’ll share them on our Facebook page too. There are more to come so please keep checking back. The channel is therightstepdc and here’s the link to the Everybody Moving playlist
 

Torch dance

Something for the evening when no natural light’s coming in. Each person needs a torch. Turn the lights out, put some inspiring music on and dance in the dark. You can also try shadow puppets, explained in the first Everybody Moving blog
 

Magic Wands

Talk about books that include magic in them. Each person needs a magic wand. This could be a stick from the garden, a lolly stick, spoon held backwards or, if your lucky enough to have them rhythm sticks. You can put some magical music and improvise or learn some magic spells from Harry Potter. There are lots of ideas on our full blog post called Magic Spells.

Make Them Smile

The challenge is to make someone else in the room smile. Do a movement or a little dance just for them. It could be silly such as an octopus wiggle or it could be kind such as mining flowers growing and giving them away.

Superman

This song, by Black Lace, has lots of activities for daily living (ADLs) in it. It’s also a lot of fun to sing and dance to.
 
 
 
Just a few ideas to get you started. We will be sharing more ideas and videos so please keep an eye out. If there’s a theme you would like us to work around please let us know.  We are also writing little messages to our care homes so please keep an eye out in the post. 
 
Try out other blogs for more ideas too…
Everybody Moving

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Magic Spells

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This is definitely ideal for those who love Harry Potter, but it can be for anyone interested in magic or who just wants to feel like a witch or wizard! 

This is an idea for people at any age, for any ability. Just adapt it to suit you and the people with you. 

Please make sure you have a safe space to do this in, warm yourself up appropriately and adapt everything to suit your needs.

You can begin by talking about Harry Potter or generally about books that include magic in them. This is a great idea for care homes due to the reminiscence and learning elements. It would also be fantastic for families who could have their own Harry Potter duel afterwards. There are also so many home schooling ideas that could be undertaken with Harry Potter as the theme. 

Cast Your Spells!

Each person needs a magic wand. This could be a stick from the garden, a lolly stick, spoon held backwards or, if your lucky enough to have them rhythm sticks. Some people may also have some really Harry Potter character wands at home if they’re big fans!

Next, learn some magic spells from Harry Potter. Think about the type of movements you would do for the result of each spell. Some people might know the real movements for the spells to. Swish and Flick!

Wingardium Leviosa – this spell levitates objects (or trolls) so swish and flick then hold your wand as you levitate the object.

Accio – the spell to bring things to you, you’ll have to hold onto this spell until the object arrives of course.

Alohamora – A little tap that unlocks doors.

Augmenta – Create water. Shake your wand as if water is coming out of the end.

Expecto Patronum – The Patronus charm to ward off Dementors. A big sweeping arm movement.

 

You can take this further by making up movements for how you might react to someone casting a spell.

Engorgio – make things larger

Reducio – make things smaller

Ridiculous – used for defeating a Bogart. This spell makes you look hilarious.

Expelliarmous – Disarming spell

Lumos – Turns the lights on, they might be quite bright!

 

If home schooling you could also think about your Patronus might be and why. You could draw it or make a model.

Reading is so important for all of us at the moment. Why not have a Harry Potter marathon and read them all!

 

For more ideas about how to keep moving at this time please read our other blogs designed to help people have fun and move throughout the day.

Everybody Moving

Everybody Moving – Care Homes

Everybody Moving – Families at Home

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Dance The Tale

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Anyone can do this, it’s good serious or silly fun at any age, for any ability.

All you need is a well loved story, (short or long), some music or if the book is short, someone to read the book and some dancers. For those who are home schooling at the moment this could be a fun English lesson. If you’re in a care home or retirement home you could do this with residents in the main room or just outside their doors. If you’re a family at home this is such a fun bonding activity.

Just adapt it for your needs.

Please make sure you have a safe space to do this in, warm yourself up appropriately and adapt everything to suit your needs.

Dance The Tale

We love to ‘Dance The Tale’. We celebrate World Book Day by making books come to life in our Educating Dance workshops and you can read more about it here: https://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2020/03/29/book-week-2020/

Here are two examples. One that is a children’s book that could be danced as a family and the other one is aimed at older children, adults or care homes. The Snail and The Whale and The Chronicles of Narnia! You can do your own ones easily though and we’d love to hear about them. 

 

An example from The Right Step’s Director, Rebecca Ashton

The Snail and The Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The easiest way to do this is to read the story and have the children improvise (find out what that means here) around the themes on each page. You’ll be amazed what they come up with.

Here’s a list of words and themes you could pick up on for each page, just take it as it comes though. Let them be free with their moving story telling!

Pg 1 – “Tiny snail”, “great big blue humpback whale”, “the sea is deep”, “the world is wide”
Pg 3 – “The silvery tail looped and curled”, how does the snail move?
Pg 6 – “This is the whale”, how ford the whale move?
Pg 7 – “This is the sea”, how does the sea move?
Pg 9 – “Firey mountains”, explode and jump like a volcano
Pg 11 – “These are the waves that arched and crashed”, how do the waves move?
Pg 12 – Fish and sharks swimming
Pg 13 – “Thunderstorm”, “Lightening”, “Flashing”
Pg 16 – “I feel so small”
Pg 17 – “Zigging and zooming all over the place”
Pg 20 – “I can’t move on land! I’m too big!”
Pg 21 – “Sit straight! Don’t talk!”
Pg 22 – “This is the trail”, write your name as a snail
Pg 23 – “running” , “digging”
Pg 25 – “Travel safely away”
Pg 28 – All the words about the journey coming back excitedly!
Pg 30 – “On the tail” looking around ready for the next adventure

You could take this further with some of these ideas. I’d love to plan a workshop or medium term plan about this book. There are so many options!!

The snail loves to write with his body. You could do other things to do with writing with your body such as writing in huge letters with your arms or feet. You could link this to art and use crayons on their sides to write like the snail, great for fine motor skills!

Saving whales and the ocean in general is a really important current theme. Whilst home schooling children could use persuasive writing to discuss conservation, draw posters about whales or play more dance games around the theme. We also have a blog about conservation in the pipeline so keep an eye out. 

 

An example from TRS South Kent’s Director, Georgie Tedora

For another story that’s well known, you could use The Chronicles of Narnia. As these are novels, they are a lot longer to look at page by page and there are also 7 of them, that’s right 7! So I’ve chosen, not only my favourite, but probably the most well known one: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. This is a wonderful story set in war times and really uses the imagination from not only the writer, but allows the reader to interpret it too.

Like I said, this is more of a novel so I have chosen some key parts to give you some ideas, but feel free to add more!

Starting off with the setting of war time and when children became evacuee’s. There are 4 siblings who are moved away together. For this you could use the simple idea of packing your things, or even the train the children travel on. Remember, it was wartime so the train would have been a steam train, lots of mechanisms and noises. You can really experiment with that.

When the children are in their temporary home, which is quite a large country home, they are playing and exploring the house when Lucy – the youngest sibling – stumbles across a wardrobe. She hides inside and discovers something amazing. The wardrobe is a magical door that leads to a new world called Narnia. You could use lots of ideas here, creating magical worlds to your liking. You may create a world entirely under water, something in out of space, or a snowy kingdom (like Narnia itself).

As I mentioned, Narnia is covered in snow. The White Witch has put the land under a permanent spell to always make it winter. Lots of ‘cold’ movements here. Perhaps even winter games like snowball fights!

The children, unbeknownst to them, are in danger in Narnia. The White Witch has ordered any humans to be captured, anyone who breaks these rules will be turned to stone by the Witch. You can really break down this part, by getting participants to imagine each singular part of the body becoming stone and unable to move. You can also reverse this (which is what happens later in the story! It is a happy ending I promise).

The children meet some more animals in Narnia, but they end up getting chased by a pack of wolves. You can use the idea of a chase, or hunting even searching for this. Or you could use the idea of the wolves fur. Imagining what they feel like, soft? Coarse?

After they have run for a while, they bump into…. Father Christmas! Yep, that’s right. Lots of ways to interpret this part of the story. You could pretend to be Father Christmas. You could use your favourite part of Christmas to move, like decorating the tree or cooking Christmas dinner?

From Father Christmas, the children each receive a special gift to defeat the White Witch. A Magical horn, a bow and arrow, a healing potion, a dagger, a sword and a shield. Lots of images to use here. Stretching the arms to pull the bow and arrow. Swiping motions for the sword and lots more. Really use your imagination to create different moves for the story.

The next part is where the ‘hero’ of the story comes in. Aslan, a beautiful, brave lion who has set up an army to defeat the queen. Each participant could become the lion. Show of their manes. Big strong powerful movements, but graceful at the same time. After all, Aslan should be king.

The Battle! The army takes on the White witch and her army. You can use some army moves (some of the participants may remember the movements). Again, using strong powerful moves. Different ‘weapons’ in battle. Really get involved in the movements here.

Finally, the happy ending! The children and Aslan defeat the witch and in doing so, Aslan undoes the spell the White Witch put on a lot of animals by using his breath so they are no longer stone. As well as this, the seasons go back to normal and the sun comes out with lots of flowers and trees growing. You can imagine yourself being a plant and growing from a seed to enjoy the sunshine.

Those are just a few key parts you can use from the book. But, like I said, there are more and there are also 6 other books! Enjoy dancing the story and let us know how you get on.

 

If you would like us to do more examples for Dance The Tale please let us know and we’ll see what we can do! 

If you would like some more ideas about how to keep moving throughout the day please see our other blog posts.

Everybody Moving

Everybody Moving – Care Homes

Everybody Moving – Families at Home

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Enhance Project Report

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The full Enhance Project Report is ready to read! 

The Enhance Project was undertaken as a way to find out what it is that Active Armchairs does for participants, but it became much more than that. 

“When I was developing Active Armchairs, a gentleman in the session, told me that, before doing the classes, he couldn’t brush his hair. He proudly stated that now he could. From this day I wanted to find out what it is that dance can do for it’s participants. Almost 10 years later, it’s finally time to scientifically prove what it is that our classes do for the dancers, and that is why we want to hold a research project.” Rebecca Ashton, Director at The Right Step Dance Company.

The Enhance Project Report explains what Active Armchairs is, including a quick history, outlines what was included in the project and explains the results. University of Kent PhD Student, Ian Farr’s short report is also included. This is a short version of the full report that will be written for his PhD. 

“The current study shows an increase in physical activity and associated benefits to physical and mental health when care home residents take part in Active Armchairs dance workshops.” Ian Farr, PhD Student, University of Kent.

If you would like a copy of the report please email us or read below. 

For more information about Active Armchairs please click HERE.

For more blog posts about the Enhance Project, please click HERE.

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Santa Fun Run 2019

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We to the Santa Fun Run in aid of Rotary Children’s Hospice Family Holidays every year and have a wonderful time. It’s our job to get the santas warm and ready for their run. It’s usually cold, but always good fun!

A big change this year was the venue. Usually held in Rochester, this year we were welcomed to The Historic Dockyard, Chatham. Another change, this year was that we were joined for the warm up by The Gym Group who were also one of the event sponsors. It was great to have more people joining in for the warm up. We took it in turns to take the lead, Lou took the lead for us, and we had the rest of the teams dotted around for the santas to copy.

You can read more about it on The Dockyards website, https://thedockyard.co.uk/whats-on/santa-fun-run/

We also have other clips, including our finish line slow mo on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/therightstepdc/

A big thank you to Medway Rotary for having us there again, the The Historic Dockyard for welcoming us to your venue and to The Gym Group for being our new warm up friends!

Now, here’s the video!!

If it doesn’t work on the website, or if you want to see all the Santa Fun Run videos, please head to YouTube… https://youtu.be/El5A5ibu5h0 

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Enhance Training Day

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The final testing as part of the Enhance, our Active Armchairs research project, is complete and I’ve received first drafts and many questionnaires and reports from various people. We are now awaiting the final results and I will also be writing a full project report, it is an exciting time for me as I can’t wait to share all the positive things that have come from it! 

Over half term the Active Armchairs Facilitators and I met for a training day. This is probably the first time that all facilitators have been in the same room at the same time. This unprecedented training day was exciting for all of us, but it also sent a clear message… your Active Armchairs sessions are doing fantastic things. A confidence boost like this is always good and we had a whole day to explore the many positives, how we can replicate them and what we can do to improve further. 

Bring on the Continued Professional Development (CPD) that the TRS Teachers crave! 

I asked some of the teachers to comment on the day…

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Enhance training session. I was looking forward to hearing the results. As a facilitator I know and can see the benefits in each one of my classes, but to get the scientific proof to back this, is fantastic! The CPD session allowed us all to be caught up and expand our knowledge further to enable us to really help the participants in each one. I learnt a lot of new ideas and ways to make my Active Armchairs sessions even better, for both myself and participants to enjoy!” Georgie, Owner of TRS South Kent, Level Three TRS Teacher and Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator

“I think the training was important as it was an opportunity for the teachers to come together and talk about the Active Armchairs sessions and how they will implement the result of Enhance in their classes. It was great to have evidence to back up what we actually already knew, that Active Armchairs is good for us! I thought the confidence increase was really interesting and it was fascinating to hear about how this can affect our ability to do something when we previously thought that we couldn’t. I think the results will influence my choreography as I will now think about what impact I what the moment to have and how this can be adapted and achieved.” Georgia Smith, Level Three TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator

“I was really interested to understand what kind of tests was carried out and the results of them. I was extremely interested in the results about the hand grip. Understanding that it wasn’t dance that helped improve movement. but the dance increased wellbeing and self belief. Aiding them to push further and accomplish more movement. 
I really enjoyed the training and understanding how psychological it can be in boosting your mood and well being.” Hayley, Level Two TRS Teacher and Level One Active Armchairs Facilitator
 
“Being a part of, and subsequently hearing the results from the Enhance Project will play an integral part to how I approach the planning and delivery of my Active Armchairs classes. I was elated to hear about the importance of instilling confidence to participants during classes and look forward to ensuring this is a given going forward.” Steph, Facilitator for the Enhance Project, Level Three TRS Teacher and Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator
I began the day by telling the facilitators all about the project, although they all knew some of what was going on, it was great to share everything from the question we asked (above) to the logistics of the day to day. We then did lots of exercises, brain break games (left), a Q and A session with facilitators and, of course, some choreography, to explore the various outcomes and experiences from all aspects of the project. 
 
The full results will be published soon along with a project report in January, but for now we can share some of the conclusions we drew during the Enhance Training. 
 
We talked a lot about how Active Armchairs affects the various people involved and this includes care home staff and family members. We looked at their perspectives and drew conclusions from the questionnaires and feedback we’d received throughout. One comment particularly stood out because it mentioned lots of the things we consider for our sessions such as CHOICE.

“Enabling our residents to have varied meaningful activities is a must. Our activities coordinator is really motivated and arranges a wide range of activities. As with any activity only certain residents will participate depending on their ability, physically and whether they are actually interested and willing to take part in specific activities.” Pat Rossouw, Home Manager at Barton Court

We talked about how Active Armchairs is a meaningful activity, outlined in NICE Quality Statement 1: Participation in Meaningful Activity and we thought of lots of ways we support this fact as well as how we can develop further.
 
The biggest thing to come from the results so far… in brief, and as alluded to by the facilitators above, increased confidence led to improved hand grip in the non dominant hand. This is something we are all extremely pleased with because, with the group of people we work with, physical maintenance at the most is expected, we made an improvement and, not only that, the improvements come from all the things we do that surround the physical activity, not just the physical activity itself. This is very affirming. 
 
Towards the end of the day we created a list of the main things Active Armchairs is adding to the lives of our participants. The findings behind this list will all be in the project report. 
 
  • Meaningful Activity
  • Confidence
  • Motivation
  • Inclusion
  • Maintenance
  • Positive Relationships
  • Variety
  • Physical Maintenance / Development

All the facilitators, including myself, left with a practical, personal to do list, of the things we wanted to do next for our classes. These were things like set myself a mini challenge (so that we would choreograph in a new way), learn more participant names (because sometimes participants can’t tell us themselves), research meaningful activity further and check the care homes have our poster on their notice board (this helps participants/residents know when we’re coming, gives them opportunity to get excited and integrates us into care home life).
 
The main aim of the day was for it to be useful and inspiring and it really was. It was also very confidence boosting for everyone and it really was very therapeutic! The dance teachers did a great job and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

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Enhance – Active Armchairs Sessions

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Written by Steph, Level 3 TRS Teacher and Level 2 Active Armchairs Facilitator.

It’s been a long time in the planning but the Enhance classes have arrived, and we are now already a few weeks into teaching our first classes! 

Together, myself, Rebecca and Katie planned each of the sessions before any classes began. Group planning ensured that we are all covering the same content in our classes and allowed each of us to have a creative input into the sessions. It’s always great to chat to other teachers about activities, dances etc that they might have used in other classes so sitting down together and sharing our ideas has ensured that we’ve brought all of our best bits together. 

In terms of the class content and approach to teaching the research project classes, we have exactly the same approach we do to every single Active Armchairs class. Nothing differs in the research project classes to ensure our work is authentic as possible. Participants still have the choice to join in, we make adaptations to suit the group (regardless if that takes us off piste from the plan), we make adaptations for the weather (very important for our recent heatwave!) and ultimately our participants at the centre of everything we do. 

We decided to start our block of tested classes with a few of our Active Armchairs classics. These are generally the songs and dances that we would use for a taster session because of their popularity and sing along worthiness! Thus our first theme was aptly named ‘Golden Records’.  The theme features songs such as ‘Delilah’, ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ and ‘I love to Boogie’. Delilah in particular is a great sing along song, and during my first class whilst I was teaching the movements to the dance the whole class erupted in song acapella! This was shortly followed by an excited participant expressing their love for the song! “Oh we love that song!” Shake, Rattle and Roll is another popular song, and a personal favourite of mine. We use brightly coloured shakers for this dance, creating different rhythms and sounds before breaking out into song and choreographed movements for the chorus.  The shakers not only bring lots of colour and different sounds into the room, they also encourage more prolonged movement. The effect of this was certainly clear in one of my classes when a participant expressed how the movement made their body feel…”Ooooo my arms, they’re having a great workout. We were all having so much fun shaking and singing we didn’t realise our arms and muscles were busy working!”

It is always exciting to take Active Armchairs classes to new venues and participants. And the classes so far haven’t been without numerous magic moments, brightening everyone’s days, including ours! Seeing participants enjoy themselves in the moment is truly special, but knowing they are eager to get going again the following week is equally as rewarding… “When are you coming again, make sure you come back…we want more of that!”

As we have now completed our first theme, ‘Golden Records’, we are now onto our next exciting theme, ‘Summer Garden’. Watch this space for the next installment of Enhance classes, celebrating all things wonderful in the Summertime! 

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Enhance – The Story So Far

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For those of you who are new to the TRS blog, welcome. To those who visit regularly,  I’m so excited to have this new strand for you!!

We have officially announced our brand new and exciting project, Enhance, although it’s been in the planning stages for over a year now. The team and I will be writing blogs throughout the project and I thought I’d start with an intro about what we’ve been doing so far. It’s been a journey with many twists and surprising turns that have lead us to something that Alice and I never expected when she first said to me, “I’ll do some Active Armchairs research.”

The very first step on this journey was to speak to the TRS Teachers. Alice and I chose the All Hands Meeting for this and we all mind mapped, drew, talked and got enthusiastic. The most important thing to come from this was that the participants should always be considered first because their well being is at the centre of everything we do. We talked about what is important to participants of Active Armchairs and ways in which we could carry out tests that would be most appropriate to them.

As I had a lot of experience with dance and project management, but little with research, I felt it would be a good idea to speak to some experts. I also went along to some events to find out more. Places and people who have influenced the project along the way include Medway Healthy Weight Summit 2018, Scott Elliot (Head of Medway Health and Wellbeing Services), Patricia Vella-Burrows (Pricipal Research Fellow, Sidney De Hann Research Centre), various staff members at University of Kent, Medway Dance Network and Medway and Kent Dance, Arts, Culture Health and Wellbeing Symposium. Without all of this input the project wouldn’t be what it is today.
 
Alongside this, Alice and I set about working out exactly what we wanted to ask. We settled upon the following questions.
 

I also decided to make the study as ‘robust’ as possible. I’ve become very used to the word, robust, as researchers use it a lot when they’re doing high quality research! It is important. The NESTA standards of evidence were recommended to me and I thought this was a great way to ensure people could trust the outcomes of the project. I’m hoping we will reach the very highest standard.

It also became apparent that there is a surprising amount of dance research out there, but it isn’t easy to find. I want the outcomes of the project to be easily found, understood and utilised, and I have some ideas in mind. As well as the report being available to all, we are also going to have a training day for Active Armchairs facilitators. This will be an unusual opportunity for everyone to get together, discuss, develop ideas and share practice. Alice and I will also be sharing how the results will influence Active Armchairs.

Somewhere in amongst all of this I met with Ian Farr, PhD Student at University of Kent. His work allies beautifully with our research aims and this was when the project began to swell and strengthen. Ian has an academic interest in the health and well being of older adults and how psychosocial factors may influence physical performance. His research will be completely independent of anything The Right Step do to ensure objectivity and to avoid bias. Simply put, we run classes and he does research about it. I won’t be there when he carries out any aspect of the study and he won’t be attending any classes.
 
After this we needed to find suitable care homes. They had to meet a few different criteria, but long story short, the chosen 5, who are kindly giving time and energy to make this happen are Ashley Gardens, Barton Court, Little Court, Warwick House and Woodstock. I’m sure their staff and residents will love the 20 Active Armchairs sessions we have planned for them!

We also have 3 facilitators, Steph, Becca G and I will be visiting on a weekly basis, except on testing weeks, and we can’t wait to get started. We’ll be planning sessions together and adapting them to the group each week.

We have a detailed plan,  we have the right people and we have the places. Next we will start the project. Research has just begun and sessions begin soon. We’ll keep you up dated, but do let us know what aspects of the project you want to hear about.

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Arts 4 Dementia Conference

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Yesterday I attended the Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference, “Towards Social Prescribing (Arts & Heritage) for the dementias”. It was jam pack day that left me thinking. There were also a huge amount of important thoughts and ideas shared by speakers so I thought I would share some aspects of the experience. 

We were welcomed by Veronica Franklin Gould who was the driving force behind the day and who is clearly extremely well-respected by her colleagues, I can see why. Immediately she left us with actions to complete… Providers of relevant activities should sign up to the Arts 4 Dementia website and notify the local NHS social prescribers. A clear message… share information and start a conversation. 

We not only heard from professionals working in the field, but also from Christine Maddocks about her experience living with vascular dementia. In Alexandra Coulter’s words she was “the voice of the individual in the system”. She inspired everyone and was an instant reminder to all of why we were there. 

One of the most relevant sections of the day for me was when two outstanding academics, Dr Daisy Fancourt and Professor Sebastian Crutch spoke. Relevant because we are about to run our own research into Active Armchairs, but also because the studies that have already been carried out can influence our provision and teaching.

Daisy talked about how the arts are multi modal (they have lots of components at play) so there are a wide variety of outcomes. She said “The more people engaged with these [arts] activities, the better their memory was years on.” A fact that can boost all providers of arts activities to anyone, if they are living with dementia or not. As dance artists and arts providers, we can also take other things from her speech. For example, we should try to include lots of different elements and approaches such as song, dance, conversation. Theses are already all important elements of Active Armchairs, but perhaps we can develop this further.

Having taken part in the Created Out of Mind training and I’ve also read about his research, I was keen to hear what Professor Sebastian Crutch had to say. He encouraged us to bring in people with a lived experience and find what works for them. The slide in the photo shows how different people are affected in different ways with different dementias. In summary, everyone is different and so the effect of the dementia is different too. 

He said “What people really need is continuity of support” and I would whole heartedly agree with this. I’ve seen the disappointment when a fantastic arts intervention has to end due to funding. It will be a difficult hurdle to jump. One that those spearheading social prescription seem to think will be solved by volunteers, but that’s another story. 

Sebastian also talked about the importance of support and community. Care is varied across the country, but he encourages people to learn about online support such as Facebook groups and said “Nothing local is not the same as nothing available.”

The comment that resonated with me most was when he said “The fact that it’s in the moment, or short-term, doesn’t make it irrelevant.” He was referring to the various graphs showing short-term and long-term improvements, some of which are only present during a session. I have always considered that, when working with anyone, the moment is just as important as the outcome. In fact, in dance, working to an outcome such as a performance can be stressful. A participatory project often has more benefits to health and well-being and the journey is key. 

After refreshments, we heard from Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP. He speaks very highly of social prescription and is extremely positive about the initiative. He was inspiring. He said we’re “caught in the scissors of doom” (increasing costs and a reduction in funding), sees social prescription as a way out and believes that prevention is critical to the survival of our health services. I believe that it’s not only that we should think of; If we can prevent illness, we also prevent pain and suffering. 

The thinking is changing, why wait.
Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP

The keynote speech was given by Baroness Greengross, a lady whose prestigious achievements, when listed, take up a lot of space. She clearly has a passion and knowledge for the subject and believes “The key is timing. We must guide people to the arts at the earliest stages.”

 

 


In plenary debate, chaired by Dr Marie Polley, we heard from six people (see list in photo) for five minutes each. Various points of views were heard and it was concluded that there was more conversation to be had and that a group for Arts and Dementia must be created as part of the network. I would go further in suggesting that, a group representing the artists should be created too. Social prescription will not work without them. 

“Where people’s’ souls are nurtured as well as their bodies.”
Professor Martin Green OBE FIAM FInstLM, FRSA, FIPSM, Cheif Executive Care England

“It really should be about conversation”
Georgia Chimbani, Dementia Lead, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services

“Biggest thing to happen in the arts for some time.”
Dr Richard Ings, Arts in Health, Wellbeing and Criminal Justice lead, Arts Council England.

Ian McCreath summed up in a way that I recognise as the approach used by many arts organisations and individuals to deliver their services, “Universal, but recognising that some people require additional support.” I agree, sessions only for those living with dementia and their carers have a place, but I believe in an inclusive approach whenever possible and appropriate. 

The afternoon was split into two sections of relevant examples. The first was entitled Arts for People Affected by Early-Stage Dementia, chaired by Dr Patricia Vella-Burrows who I’ve been lucky enough to hear speak and learn from a several times now. Examples from poetry and music were, of course of interest, especially Gemma Dixon’s story of Bob who played the organ before class. “His confidence was boosted, he had ability to speak in full sentences where he couldn’t before”.

 

 

The section about dance was most relevant though and it was a delight to hear from Dr Sophia Hulbert and neurophysiotherapist who has a love of dance. It was boosting for me that many of the things Sophia attributed to the success of her sessions (including items in the photo of ‘Conceptual Underpinning) are also found within Active Armchairs.

 

Sophia also did a quick demonstration. This was a fantastic way to get everyone reawakened after lunch and demonstrated how “Imagery can really empower movement”. In this case the imagery was also uplifting as it was about flying in a hot air balloon. I always enjoy seeing a conference of people who usually sit at a desk dancing! 

 

 

The second section in the afternoon gave everyone a better understanding about how Social Prescription can, and does, work. Nicky Taylor talked about how working in partnership has more impact, Dr Richard Hooker encouraged us to always remember the carers, Wendy Gallagher told us about the Handbook for engagement with people living with dementia and Bogdan Chiva Giurca, an extremely inspiring young man said that “One step is to bridge the inter generational gap”. Kathryn Gilfoy, Director at Resonate Arts, had many examples of different activities to share and I enjoyed her slide about the benefits of arts and person centred care.

Following this Professor Helen Chatterjee MBE discussed social isolation and how museums can help combat it. Her points about the research already carried out motivate artists to provide deep level cognitive stimulation to ensure that activities are truly engaging. I also picked up some more thoughts for the up coming Active Armchairs research project. 

Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia, closed the day. In just a few minutes he left us with actions and inspirations.

“There are more people living with dementia now that ever have before.”
Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia

It was one of those days that leaves your brain fuzzed with thoughts and ideas. I will act on them.

In terms of practical application, I believe there are some gaps that still need exploring, transport and fair payment for artists for example, but as an overall ideal for shifting prescription to preventative measures, I’m completely on board. Not just for people living with dementia though, if done well, Social Prescription could help everyone with their health and well-being and provide a cultural shift. We will see.

I do hope The Right Step will be found delivering prescribed dance activity, especially as what we currently offer is already of high quality and always developing to suit the needs of participants, but we will have to see how the commissioning side evolves and how we are able to be included.

I will conclude with an open invitation for anyone working in social prescribing to contact me. We must open conversation about how we can bring dance with a health and well-being agenda to the masses.

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