People of a certain age are ‘boogietastic’ in the Bont and they just can’t stop dancing.

Llanelli Online took a trip over the bridge dividing Carmarthenshire and Swansea on Tuesday (Dec 4) to find out more.

Once a week older adults meet at the Pontarddulais Institute to put on the tunes and get on down to some dancing. It isn’t so much as a silver disco as an activity with a very serious purpose. The dance and movement forms part of activities which aid core strength development in an attempt to prevent older people from falling. Even if they do fall those same core strengths will help in getting them back up or at least in a position where they are able to call for help.

Dance to Health is a national initiative. The organisation claim that taking part in Dance to Health is an enjoyable way to stay fit, mobile, and improve balance and flexibility. Dance to Health runs two programmes, called FAME and OTAGO

Area Coordinator: Richard Davies

We met Richard Davies the area coordinator at the Pontarddulais Institute and he told us what it was all about. He said: “Today we have a falls prevention class. It is overseen by the Health Board. Through a series of exercises to music which have a good base in a physiotherapy background. It helps people gain mobility, keep mobility and increase core strength.”

The sessions are led by fully trained dance professionals from recognised leading dance agencies. The dance artists have undertaken training in physiotherapy methods, they combine these with creativity, energy and movement of dance.

Richard stressed the other benefits including tackling isolation. He said: “There is also a social side to it. They are making new friends. We have found that there is a social side to it. By inviting people to this activity they are making new friends. People have said that they bump into people in the shops now and have a chat whereas before they would have passed them by.”

Each session is tailored to the needs and requirements of those participating. Usually a session begins with a seated warm-up, which mobilises the body and explores different ways of moving, there are then some more structured exercises, and a little bit of freestyle. After each session there is an opportunity to relax and catch up with other members over a cup of tea.

The activity has been funded but that may soon run out and there are efforts being made to ensure it can be sustained through the help of fund raising and the support of local businesses such as Gomer Williams Solicitors who have offices in the town.

Explaining how the group works Richard said: “There is an ongoing cost to putting this activity on. At the moment it is funded by the health board. We are looking to get some sustainability. There is a small group formed from this group and they take a collection, a small fee just to support the teas and coffees with a view to pay the hall fees and the instructors fees. The instructors come from the dance schools. They are very highly qualified.”

The sessions last up to 90 minutes with an extra 30 minutes for a well-earned cup of tea.
Speaking about the value of the group to the older community Richard said: “We have seen a lot in the news on isolation particularly with older adults. This kind of activity which brings people together with a common activity is hugely valuable to individuals and the community. You only have to be here to feel the warmth in the room. People are chatting and exchanging stories and for many it is actually the highlight of their week and they look forward to it.”

When asked about the financial implication for the health board dealing with elderly people who have fallen Richard said: “Prevention is the cure. If we leave it until there is a problem then cost implications are huge. Anything we can prevent or keep people stronger for longer that is a huge thing. The idea is to prevent the fall in the first place by increasing core strength and general mobility. If someone does have the fall how do they have the strength to get up.”

Supporting the group: Kate Clarke (r) of Gomer Williams Solicitors

Richard said that he has been happy to receive support from local businesses. He said “The local solicitors Gomer Williams have been very supportive as as have the local council. Tesco have also been great. Emma the community officer from Tesco comes and supports every event. She comes in and has a coffee with them and carries on the engagement through the store.”

If you have fallen or are worried about falling then improving your health and fitness by strengthening your muscles and improving your flexibility and balance is key. The sessions will help with your aches and pains and your independence and quality of life. Dance to Health sessions are designed for both male and female participants.

Participating in Dance to Health you will become a member of a nationwide community. Sessions take place currently in Birmingham, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Norfolk and South Wales. To find out more you can visit https://www.dancetohealth.org

Pondarddulais dance class for the elderly from Llanelli Online on Vimeo.

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