Opera House ballet classes for seniors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

A series of ballet classes for older people being held at the Sydney Opera House will not only provide a unique opportunity, but for many it will also fulfill a lifelong dream.

When Kate Spurway, founder of NurseWatch, first learnt that Queensland Ballet had conducted research into the wellbeing benefits for older students of taking part in ballet classes, she knew this was a concept she wanted to bring to Sydney.

She thought some of her clients would love the opportunity to dance at the Sydney Opera House, and that the project was perfectly aligned with NurseWatch’s ‘wellness, care, social’ philosophy.

She said it’s important for people to stay creative and experience new things, even as they grow older.

“Just because people are older doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be out there doing something they love, and gaining all the benefits from that at the same time,” she said.

Ms Spurway approached the Australian Ballet, and NurseWatch is now sponsoring a series of ballet classes at the Sydney Opera House that are specifically tailored for older people’s needs.

The classes will run for one hour and will be based on the famous ballets of Giselle on 8, 9 and 16 May (places are still available for the 16 May class; please email [email protected] for more information) and The Nutcracker on 14 and 21 November, and 4 December 2019. 

Ballet classes are “fun and social”

Katy McKeown, Head of Education for The Australian Ballet, said this is the first time the organisation has run dance classes specifically for older people.

“Dance is one of those art forms which really addresses many health issues so well – in a really fun and social way,” she said.

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“When you do a dance workshop like this, you’re going to be improving your balance, your range of movement, your understanding of the various techniques. All of this is going to give you the subsequent health benefits.

“People often push themselves more, and they only realise when they see how tired they are afterwards!” Ms McKeown said.

Ms Spurway said there have been several research reports showing that ballet can help older people in many ways.

“There have been studies which found ballet, in particular, really helps mature people in a lot of ways. For example, a study done by the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found participants improved muscle power and even reduced the prevalence of falls by doing ballet,” she said.

The Queensland Ballet research

In 2017, Queensland Ballet conducted research with the Queensland University of Technology into the benefits to older people of participating in ballet classes.

The study, which included participants between the ages of 46 and 82 years, found ballet improved the physical and emotional wellbeing of older people. It made them feel more energetic and animated, and it helped them keep their bodies in shape. It created greater awareness of their bodies, and it helped the students improve their posture and flexibility.

The researchers also found that when the older students learnt challenging movements and sequences, they experienced the greatest sense of achievement and happiness, indicating that older people gain more satisfaction from pushing themselves, rather than working on skills they have already mastered.

Many participants in the classes said they had a lifelong love of ballet, and the classes presented them with an opportunity to fulfil a dream.

The ‘wellness, care, social’ model of care

NurseWatch provides premium care at home with the aim of creating ‘wellness, care, social’ benefits for clients.

The ballet classes perfectly align with the ‘wellness, care, social’ model. The research shows ballet has ‘wellness’ benefits for older people, ‘care’ is shown in the supportive class environment, and ‘social’ benefits are gained when participants take part in the group class together.

Ms Spurway said, “We want to allow our clients to be the best they can be at this later stage of their life.”

To find out more about NurseWatch, visit their website, or call (02) 9331 3344.

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