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Local

It's all a matter of balance

New program designed to help reduce fear of falling, improve activity levels

Michelle Halm
Director, Putnam County Community Center
Michelle Halm Director, Putnam County Community Center

STANDARD — Whether it's a sudden slip in the winter while walking across ice, missing a step on the stairs, or even tripping over a pet, falling is, unfortunately, all too common.

A serious fall-related injury can happen at any age, but the impact of a fall can become increasingly detrimental as people get older.

To help decrease the likelihood of a traumatic fall, the Putnam County Community Center is preparing to offer a new pilot program named "A Matter of Balance."

"These classes will help participants become more confident about managing falls by believing that they can increase their strength, find ways to reduce falls, and protect themselves if they do fall," PCCC Director Michelle Halm said.

This new, award-winning program is able to be offered at the PCCC through a one-year grant received from the Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging. Halm said the classes are expected to be offered in the spring and fall.

Class participants will learn to view falls as controllable; set goals for increased physical activity; make changes in their homes to reduce the chance of a fall; and how to exercise to increase their strength and sense of balance.

While anyone can register, it's particularly recommended for those 60 and older; those who have previously fallen or are concerned about falling; those who have had to restrict their activities because of concerns about falling; and anyone interested in improving their sense of balance, flexibility and strength.

The classes will be held across eight sessions, typically held twice a week for four weeks, or once a week for eight weeks, and with each class lasting two hours. Each session will be led by a trained, volunteer coach.

Halm said she has already confirmed one interested volunteer to coach, and she's looking for another. Eight hours of training is required for coaches, and well-developed program materials will be provided.

"Coaches will need to be good communicators and have an enthusiasm and willingness to lead a small group through a series of low-to-moderate level exercises. This is a great opportunity to make a significant impact in the community and to help change people's lives," Halm said.

Studies have shown that six months after engaging in the program, 97 percent of participants are more comfortable talking about their fear of falling; 97 percent feel comfortable with their increased activity levels; 99 percent plan to continue exercising; and 98 percent would recommend "A Matter of Balance."

According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans 65 and older will fall this year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors.

While this program will teach how to prevent falling, make adjustments to the home, and increase physical activity and strength, "A Matter of Balance" will also help promote independence and provide valuable social interaction.

The Putnam County Community Center is located at 128 First St. in Standard. For more information about registering for "A Matter of Balance," becoming a volunteer coach, or the many other services and programs offered by the center, call 815-339-2711, email pcaservices@yahoo.com, or visit their website at www.pcaservices.org.

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