By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Falling is a real fear for many senior citizens, but a program of the Area Agency on Aging 3 is looking to help with that.
An eight-week class titled “A Matter of Balance” educates seniors on how to make changes to their home and their lifestyle to help reduce the risk of falls. Exercises to increase strength and balance are also taught.
Facilitator Dancie Mohler is a health education coordinator for the agency on aging and has been involved with the program for eight years.
“It’s important that we make sure that you stay healthy, that you know how to stay healthy, and one of those ways is to prevent falls,” she said.
The evidence-based program was created by Boston University’s Roybal Center in Applied Gerontology and the New England Research Institutes with funding from the National Institute on Aging.
The first class at 50 North was held last week. Sessions continue from 1-3 p.m. every Thursday through Oct. 25.
“I’m going to probably guess that half of this room has had at least one fall already,” Mohler told attendees during the first class. “If you’re really honest with yourselves, for those of you who have fallen, most of those could be prevented.”
Mohler also explained that falling leads to the fear of falling, which leads to more falls. “A Matter of Balance” is designed to help combat that fear and the hesitancy that goes along with it, she said.
“What we also see is when you are afraid, you tend to just stay right where you are. You don’t want to open that door and step outside. It’s probably one of the worst things that we can do. We’ve got to remain active for so many reasons,” she said.
Session 2 this Thursday will include a discussion on thoughts and concerns about falling. Participants will hopefully feel comfortable enough to open up about their experiences, their challenges and their successes, said Mohler.
Exercises start the third week of the program and will include shoulder rolls, foot circles, seated leg extensions and knee raises, toe stands, alternating steps, side steps, finger spreads, elbow touches and stretches.
“We’re not going to make you run any laps. We’re not going to get on the floor and do push-ups or sit-ups. But we are going to do some exercises that will raise your heart rate a little bit,” Mohler said. “You’re going to move some parts of your body that maybe you haven’t focused on in a while.”
Some people may not want to continue with the series due to the exercises, Mohler predicted. She anticipates that some will be embarrassed because they can’t move like they did when they were younger.
“But it’s important to remember we are all different bodies with different strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “There’s not one person in here who is the same, so you just have to feel comfortable doing what you can.”
The fourth session Sept. 27 will focus on assertiveness and fall prevention, while the session on Oct. 5 will look at managing concerns about falling. A representative from the Findlay Fire Department will talk to the group about what emergency responders do when a Life Alert button is pushed.
“So many people are afraid to press those buttons because they don’t know what will happen,” said Mohler. “There have been people in our classes that have fallen and they were afraid to press that button because they don’t want somebody breaking a window or breaking their door, and they would rather lay there.”
There are steps that first responders take, she said, “but it also takes awareness on your part and some knowledge of what you need to do to let them know what your circumstances are.”
For the sixth session on Oct. 11, participants will be asked to look for risks inside their homes.
“You will realize there are some risks right where you live that could rob you of your independence if you’re not careful,” Mohler said. “The cords, the rugs, poor lighting, unsteady steps maybe leading into your house. Do you have proper lighting on the outside of your house as well?
“All of that is really important to take a look at and be honest about.”
Class members will talk about those results at the seventh session on Oct. 18. Mohler also hopes to bring someone in to talk about the various types of safety equipment on the market.
Graduation day is set for Oct. 25.
The class but free, but anyone interested must come this week or they will not be able to attend Sept. 20 when exercises are introduced for the first time. For more information, call 50 North at 419-423-8496.
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