Dementia – Reduce risk and improve health at Skylight Circus Rochdale

We started Silver Circus to expand our classes to over 55’s.  People come to socialise, make friends and learn circus skills.  Over the last two years, it’s been great to see big improvements in our participants’ health and wellbeing.  From coordination to balance, the levels of improvements are notable.  “When I’m using diablo, I think of nothing else.  My coordination has improved and I’m laughing a lot!” Our participants enjoy the social aspect and even bring lunch for an indoor picnic afterwards!
Here’s Greta Green story – Silver Circus Member

I started going to Silver Circus about 2 years ago. I’ve always wanted to learn to juggle as my mum used to wow us with her juggling when we were children. She could juggle 2 eggs, one handed, a skill she taught herself during her RAF days in the 2nd world war. So having seen a poster advertising the sessions, off I set.

What have I gained from attending these sessions? I have learned such a lot. Admittedly my juggling isn’t the best, but I have learned other skills. I have rediscovered my love of diablo, which I loved as a child and hadn’t even thought about for 60 or so years. I tried flowers sticks and can ‘ticktock’ quite well, at times. I still have to master starting my plate spinning with the stick, not twirling it with my hand, but I’ll get there, I’ve given myself till I’m 100 to master it all!

I have made new and good friendships with staff and other members of the ‘Silver’ group, but also with some of the younger ‘Skylighters’. I have had the pleasure of being involved in 3 productions. The Christmas 2017 production based on Scrooge, Generations (this is when I met and worked with the younger ‘Skylighters’), and Mr Kite, the production based on circus in Rochdale and involving most of the Skylight groups, thus meeting new people. I cannot stress how important it is for people in my age group (I’m 70 yrs old) to meet new people, and oh what a joy to be involved in this way. As adults we go to watch and support our own children, then our grandchildren, but what an overwhelming pleasure it is for them to come and see and support us. I never imagined that I would ever have the opportunity to be involved in this, or any, production, or in fact that I would want to. The Generation production was special as we performed at Skylight’s base, at Touchstones, Rochdale, and the at the Lowry, Salford. I jokingly told my grandchildren that Granny was on tour, they were well impressed. We also performed the juggling part of Generations at Rochdale’s Feel Good Festival 2018 and at the Royal Exchange in Manchester as part of their Elders Event 2018.

Being involved with Skylight gives a brilliant start to the week, our group is on Monday morning. I believe that it gives a good, positive start to the week. We are made so welcome by Brush, Gill, Martine, Charma, Olivia and Jim. They are always eager for us to try whatever we wish and are very positive and encouraging, and are always there to offer tips and advice. Last year I had some knee problems, ongoing really, but that’s an age thing. I went for physiotherapy and when I told my physio about the circus sessions at Skylight he was very supportive of me continuing going as he thought the exercise, the learning of new skills, the fun and friendship was so important, especially for those living alone.

I have also had the opportunity to join the staff in their outreach work. I went to sessions at Woodclough Day Centre, Middleton and Willows Dementia Hub, Rochdale. I believe that this inclusive work is so important for all. I have had the pleasure of seeing people, sometimes with limited understanding and mobility, have fun and try new skills. It is fantastic to see how ‘circus type’ activities can be adapted so that everyone can try, and importantly, succeed. Thinking of this reminds me of the look of absolute pleasure on one man’s face when he could balance a peacock feather on his rather arthritic hand. And the look of impish pleasure on another man’s face when his balancing was successful because he has pushed the end of the feather between his fingers, such fun.

I hope to be going to ‘Clown Club’, as Julie and Maureen lovingly call it, for many years yet. I cannot imagine my week without my Monday morning boost of exercise, fun and friendship. Life would not seem the same without it. Many of the group are hoping to be able to be involved in another production, whatever is decided, we will be there with enthusiasm in full force.

silver circus performing with Skylight Circus Arts in Mr Kite 2018 Rochdale
silver circus performing with Skylight Circus Arts in Mr Kite 2018 Rochdale
Silver Circus warming up to perform in Mr Kite at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus learning to juggle at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus member learning plate spinning at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus performing Generations at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus performing Mr Kite at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale