Form 2 took part in a ‘Dancing with Dementia Patients’ project as part of their Responsibilities Development and as an extension of the school’s Outreach Development. Miss Worthington, Deputy Head of Junior Department, explained, “The aim was twofold: to provide Outreach Opportunities to Form 2 children to increase their understanding, compassion and self-awareness whilst also developing their sense of responsibility towards others in the local community. We believe that by doing this, children will be given opportunities to embody and develop the values of trust, compassion, love and understanding.”
To implement the project, the children worked with Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and the Horizons Community Centre, Coldhams Lane, Cambridge. Horizons Community Centre is a day care centre for people with Learning Difficulties and also has a supported living area called The Birches for people with Dementia. Filipa came to school and ran two workshops with each Form 2 class. These workshops included teaching and discussion on dementia; what it looked like, how it presented in adults and what the children might expect to see. Children talked about their own experiences of dementia. Filipa also taught the children how to move to music and they experimented with different ways of moving and dancing in pairs or small groups.
Each Form 2 class visited the Horizons Community Centre on one occasion and the children sat interspersed between the adults and talked confidently and thoughtfully to the people near to them. Filipa led a seated warm up and then children, carers, volunteers and the elderly people with dementia introduced themselves to the whole group. Following this, children were invited to move with the elderly people and a beautiful chaotic but gentle dance ensued. Some people sang along and music was used as a trigger to bring some of the elderly people out of their sometimes subdued state.
The Form 2 children enthused, “I really enjoyed it because there was a lady in a wheelchair and she looked sad at first but then, when I danced with her, she seemed really happy and she was tapping her leg in time to the music” and, “I was a bit nervous but once you get there its really fun and just like dancing with anyone, it was easy to forget that these people have dementia.” Miss Worthington reflected, “Watching the compassion, care and understanding that the children showed the elderly people was extremely touching. The children now have a much deeper understanding of dementia and what it looks like and they also have an understanding of how to communicate and make relationships with those who are very different from themselves.”