Ready, Steady Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016

September 22 is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day and the YMCA of Rock River Valley is joining the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the Falls Free Coalition for Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016, a day of action to help raise awareness and prevention of falls in our community. Each year, it’s estimated that one out of three Americans aged 65 or older will suffer a fall, leaving many of these adults with a fear of falling that can cause them to limit physical activities. This leads to reduced mobility and diminished quality of life, and actually increases their risk of falling. In addition, as the population ages falls put an immense strain on the health care system, with the financial toll expected to reach $67.7 billion by 2020. The good news is that falls are preventable. With a focus on healthy aging, the Y is committed to helping older adults learn their fall risk and access programs that can help them reduce their risk for falls.
 
“As a leading community-based organization dedicated to building a culture of health for all families, the Y is asking older adults, caregivers, family members and health care professionals to raise awareness and prevent falls in the older adult population,” said Jane Johnson, SilverSneakers Coordinator, YMCA of Rock River Valley. “Falls are preventable, but when an older adult falls, it not only affects the individual but negatively impacts our families and communities.”
 
The first step to prevention is understanding risk. Older adults can assess their fall risk by taking a simple test. Through this assessment, individuals can learn how routine activities and other factors help determine their risk for falls.
 
Once assessing risk, the next step is to take action. The Y is helping to improve the health and well-being of older adults through programs like SilverSneakers, which provides a free Y membership through Medicare or a qualifying insurance company. The Y offers customized SilversSneakers classes designed exclusively for older adults who want to improve their strength, flexibility, endurance and balance.
 
YMCA member Mary Hamp joined the Y in her sixties. She has been coming three times a week for more than 30 years. At 91, Mary leads her Active Older Adults class in core strength and can hold a plank for more than a minute. Mary credits this strength with helping her bounce back after a recent fall.

“The doctors were amazed that I didn’t break a bone and I know it is because I exercise regularly,” said Hamp. “I always encourage friends to join the Y and be active. It not only helps physically, but it keeps our minds strong, too.”
 
The CDC suggests these basic lifestyle and safety changes to help reduce risk or prevent falls:
  • Begin an exercise program to improve your leg strength & balance.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines.
  • Get annual eye check-ups & update your eyeglasses.
  • Make your home safer by:
  • Removing clutter & tripping hazards.
  • Putting railings on all stairs & adding grab bars in the bathroom.
  • Installing proper lighting, especially on stairs.
To learn more about the SilverSneakers program at the YMCA of Rock River Valley, please contact Jane Johnson at janejohnson@rockriverymca.org or 815-489-1210. You can also learn more on our SilverSneakers page.