A Yorkshire Dance project is “bringing joy” into the lives of people with dementia living in care homes in Leeds, while helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation.
In Mature Company, which is funded by the city’s £6m Time to Shine loneliness project, bids to challenge the preconception that people in care homes cannot be lonely and tackle it using the power of dance and touch.
The three-year project grew from another scheme, Young At Art, which was also aimed at tackling loneliness in older people, and identified how “incredibly isolating” life could be for some care home residents.
Since last September, a team of six dancers and musicians have been working in three Leeds care homes, The Grove in Pudsey, Knowle Manor in Morley and Halcyon Court in Hyde Park, to help those suffering with dementia to make new connections. The team offers sessions to small and large groups, plus one-to-one sessions for those who may not be able to leave their rooms.
Programme director of Yorkshire Dance, Hannah Robertshaw, said: “There is a lot of joy, fun and cheekiness in the large group sessions, while the one-to-one sessions can be incredibly positive as one thing our dancers can offer that some staff can’t is the luxury of time.
“All the artists are trained in being person-centered - finding out what works for the person, and how they respond to things. We very much focus on touch. The opportunity to be in close physical contact with another human being is essential to leading a happy life and to make you feel connected to others.
“The artists have recently been working on the theme of journeys, as a lot of the residents feel quick stuck where they are - so this is an opportunity to travel using their imagination, which is quite rich.”
Sue Patel, activities coordinator at The Grove, said the residents particularly enjoyed discovering the different themes of the sessions, such as 1940s or 50s, or The Beatles.
“Singing and music particularly seem to resonate with our residents,” she said. “There’s never any pressure to take part, and there’s plenty of chat and reassurance.”Yorkshire Dance, which has worked with Dementia Mapping experts at the University of Bradford to evaluate the impact of the project, is now seeking volunteers and care homes as its moves into its second year. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0113 243 9867 for more information.