Baycrest and Canada’s National Ballet School partner to offer dance to seniors living with dementia

Toronto, Canada – Baycrest Health Sciences is partnering with Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) to create a dance program for older adults with dementia. While Baycrest has a long tradition of integrating arts-based programming into its care environment with seniors, the partnership with NBS is the first research project it has initiated with a specific focus on dance. The project is also a first for NBS – the organization has never worked with seniors with dementia or implemented programming in a long-term care setting before now.

“Canada’s National Ballet School has recognized leadership and expertise in dance education, health and wellness promotion. Baycrest has recognized expertise in caring for aging adults in a long-term care setting, knowing the unique needs of adults with dementia, and we have experience in clinical research. It’s an ideal partnership,” says Melissa Tafler, Baycrest’s Arts in Health program coordinator.

Baycrest and NBS held a two-day workshop last May to kick-start conversations about dance in healthcare settings, which informed the four-month pilot project that is now in full swing. The pilot project will influence the direction of a research study that will shape a formal dance program for frail seniors, with the intent of supporting Canada’s growing aging community.

“Dance is an art form and a way of expressing oneself that should not be seen as only for young people. There are so many health benefits of dance – physically, emotionally, mentally and socially – that reach beyond the physical limits an individual may have,” says Anuschka Roes, head of Teacher Training at NBS. “Through NBS’ partnership with Baycrest, we hope to encourage dance teachers to reach these aging populations, for which there is a need for additional and committed resources.”

Developing evidence-based arts programs in healthcare settings for frail, older adults is an emerging field.  “Studies are showing that the arts and dance in particular can help reduce anxiety, depression and agitation in older adults, but we want to know more. What other benefits can music and dance offer to seniors to enhance their quality of life?” said Tafler.

Theatre, dance, art and storytelling are becoming more prevalent in healthcare settings.  Baycrest’s Culture, Arts and Innovation department provides seniors with a spectrum of arts-based interventions and programming – it’s a person-centered approach to care that contributes to overall physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

NBS is expanding its dance and health program offerings as the demand for specialized arts services grows.  NBS has developed dance programs to benefit several different client populations, including those with Parkinson’s, people living with cancer, and children with high physical and health needs.

Baycrest and NBS say the long range plan is to make the dance program for seniors with dementia available to other long-term care facilities across Canada.

About Baycrest Health Sciences

Baycrest is unique in the world, combining a comprehensive system of care for aging adults, one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, dedicated centres focused on mitigating the impact of age-related illness and impairment, and unmatched global knowledge exchange and commercialization capacity.

About Canada’s National Ballet School

Established in 1959, Canada’s National Ballet School is a world leader in the training of professional dancers and teachers. Dedicated to moving the world by teaching and celebrating dance, NBS is committed to promoting the art of dance through community initiatives, as well as offering recreational and professional programs. NBS alumni can be found as dancers, teachers, choreographers and artistic directors in over 80 dance companies and schools around the globe.  


For more information, please contact:

Amanda Paterson
Media Relations Assistant
Baycrest Health Sciences
416-785-2500, ext. 3368

Danielle Paroyan
Senior Communications Officer
Canada’s National Ballet School
416-964-3780, ext. 2117