“A consistent exercise program that is challenging is key,” said Kelly Ward, fall prevention expert. Ward can be seen doing simple chair exercises with her students who enter the six-week “Fall Proof” program designed to strengthen and increase balance to reduce the likelihood of a fall.
While falls are NOT a “normal” part of aging, they are an epidemic among people over 85. One in three aging adults suffers extreme injuries from falls each year, “and someone dies every 30 minutes from a fall-related accident,” said Ward. This is why it’s imperative to teach techniques to help prevent falls. “Falling can instantly change a person’s life and rob them of their independence,” said Ward. “Taking simple steps to prevent falls will not only decrease fall risk, but also increase health and wellness.”
A Class Can Change Someone’s Life
One of Ward’s students suffers from neuropathy, a tingly sensation in the feet accompanied by pain. This 84-year-old woman has seen progress since beginning the class. “Because of this condition, her knees were so weak it was necessary for her to use a cane to walk,” said Ward. “The class helped her walk better, and more importantly, increased her confidence.”
Skeptics can rest assured: there is evidence to prove that exercise can improve balance. Two tests were conducted before and after the Fall Proof class held at Eskaton Village Carmichael, California, in May. A “sit and reach” test measured the number of inches in the gap remaining when participants reached fingers to toes. The second test recorded the number of seconds to stand and walk around a cone. Not only did most participants decrease the number of inches and seconds, but one 90-year-old student was able to touch her toes.
Another 87-year-old participant set a goal to reach her toes and – and did so by the end of the program. “It’s empowering to see the positive transformation in residents’ lives when goals are reached and confidence and independence rises,” said Sheri Peifer, Chief Strategy Officer with Eskaton – the nonprofit company organizing on-going fall prevention classes in the Sacramento region. “We are raising awareness that exercise is the way to achieve the lifestyle you desire.”
The workshops also address the psychological effects by providing supportive training and guidance to older adults who have fallen in the past. For more information and a list of classes visit eskaton.org or call 916-866-eskaton.