Creative Contemporary Dance for Older Adults: A new Social Prescription Pathway?

Melinda Spencer, Eadie Simons

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned Report


Following the introduction and development of the Elders’ Dance Company (established by Dancemind in January 2020), Dancemind are delivering a 1 year (2023), 2 stranded programme of contemporary creative dance for people over the age of 60 years in Northamptonshire. Named ‘Dance Elders’, it aims to offer older people living in the local community opportunities to be more creative by supporting them to design, develop and increase participation in high-quality creative dance activities. This creative pursuit supports physical, cognitive, and social benefits through dancing, with existing research suggesting that dancing improves physical and cognitive ability (Connolly & Redding, 2010; Cruz-Ferreira, Marmeleira, Formigo, Gomes & Fernandes, 2015) and social connections. For example, in the findings from previous evaluations of the Elders’ Dance Programme (Spencer, 2020, 2021), contemporary dance routines were reported to challenge the dancers more than other genres of dance physically and cognitively. However, whilst it was challenging, dancers implied that this was a positive aspect of the programme. Participating dancers in the Elders’ Dance programme also enjoyed the creative process which included choreography of parts of the routine. As the group progressed, the sense of belonging and friendships formed was an important and valued part of the programme.

Both groups of the Dance Elders programme have been and continue to be delivered over 3 blocks of 11 weeks in 2023. The programme offers opportunity to build and strengthen social ties, connecting with like-minded people, creatively sharing experiences, and building bonds through dance: Group 1. The Open Class - a social prescribing or selfreferral route into dance and Group 2. The Performance Company - developing a performance company with a Midlands network of Elders’ companies (also available for social prescription and self-referrals). Dancemind will be working in partnership with the Royal & Derngate, Age UK, Spring Northamptonshire Social Prescribing and Warwick Arts Centre. The University of Northampton have been allocated a £3K budget (through ACE funding awarded to Dancemind) to conduct a broad and basic evaluation of the year long programme. Further funding from the University of Northampton from Support for Innovation & Research Ideas, Policy & Participation was awarded in January 2023 to allow a detailed research focus on the social prescribing and self-referral pathways during blocks 1 and 2, and was aimed at: 1) measuring participants’ experiences of this new social prescribing and self-referral pathway; 2) exploring how this new social prescription pathway works in practice to inform future integration of accessible services. This report presents findings from terms 1 and 2 of the Dance Elders programme.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Northampton
Number of pages54
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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