Helix Arts

Award amount: £67,817 over 3 years

Organisation: Helix Arts

Falling on Your Feet Dance and Health Programme

The Charity

Helix Arts is a charity based in North Shields, whose work extends across the North East of England.  The charity connects high quality artists with diverse communities to co-produce and co-curate great art, including dance, together. Helix Arts is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) and is the only NPO of its type in the region, engaging in all art forms with people of all ages and abilities whatever their circumstances.

The need

NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) Clinical Guidelines 161 recommends exercise as a highly effective prevention intervention for falls. However, all the recommended programmes require 50 hours of exercise over 6 months, which is simply not practical for any NHS Trust to provide. This is where innovative programmes, such as the Falling on your Feet dance and health programme for older people, run by Helix Arts, which we are funding, step in to help older people keep active and reduce their fear of falling.

This programme also aims to decrease social isolation. The extent of loneliness amongst older people is demonstrated in the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness with the startling fact that for 3.6 million people aged 65, television is their main form of company.

The project was first piloted in 2015/16 with much success and our grant is funding a larger programme that is working towards sustainability by collecting data to show the health benefits of this work. The charity will then be able to evidence the value of this programme to the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and regional Hospital Trusts.

The project

The Trust is funding the Falling on your Feet dance and health programme for older people who are 65 years and over and live independently. The purpose of the programme is to encourage older people to get moving to help reduce falls and associated admissions to hospital. The programme includes dance activities designed to improve balance, strength and flexibility. There is also a social element to the programme with refreshments at the end, which seeks to address issues older people face around isolation and loneliness.

There are many benefits to the Falling on Your Feet programme:

  • It is for older people only. Participants in the pilot project said that this was an important factor, as they knew it would be suitable for their level of fitness.
  • It is for older people who live independently. There are other classes for care home residents.
  • It is in local community centres so that participants do not have to travel far. Participants in the pilot also said that going to a large dance studio would be intimidating and they much preferred a local setting.
  • It is a collaborative process; participants do not only follow instruction, they are involved in how the class progresses and these sessions can be adapted to the specific and changing needs of the participants.

Is it working?

The project is now entering its second year, having benefitted 50 participants during its first year. As well as improved balance and strength, beneficiaries have reported that they feel less socially isolated; they have met new people and been motivated to try new activities. Increased emotional wellbeing has also been noted with participants commenting that they had improved confidence and self-esteem and gained new skills.

The Community Falls Service at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust are collecting qualitative data on whether this programme can reduce the risks of falls in the participants. If these types of programmes can produce demonstrable health results, they could help achieve the 50 hours of recommended exercise and give people different and interesting ways to maintain their mobility beyond what could be provided by the NHS. From the initial results, it is evident that the programme is reducing the risk of falling and participants have shown improvements when comparing their first and last sessions.

Dean Metz, Senior Physiotherapist and Falls and Vestibular Specialist, says ‘this is truly a remarkable demonstration of cross boundary working between health, social and artistic communities to achieve a better and healthier society on the whole.’

The project is also being independently evaluated by Consillium Research and we look forward to seeing the results of this evaluation.

We are delighted that Helix Arts has secured Arts Council England NPO funding from 2018-2022, Arts Council England Celebrating Age funding from 2018-2021 and awarded Big Potential Breakthrough project funding to explore investment readiness of the Falling on Your Feet dance and health programme.

You can read more about the programme on Helix Arts’ website.