By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Helping seniors to prevent falls by working on balance and identifying potential risks in their homes as well as figuring out how to get up after a fall are part of “A Matter of Balance” program. Offered by Milestones Area Agency on Aging, the program is now being presented at Holy Family Parish.
Parish Nurse Mary Fritch of Holy Family said trained coaches lead the eight-week program. She learned about it from several Illinois parish nurses and Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, which presented the program earlier this summer.
“We had Sonita (Oldfield-Carlson) speak before and she was captivating,” Fritch said. Oldfield-Carlson is a program facilitator at Milestones and has been leading A Matter of Balance at Holy Family along with volunteer Joan Marttila. Both are trained coaches.
Fritch said each session provides a mix of talks on a variety of topics, self-evaluation and non-strenuous exercise. Sometimes guest speakers share insights or videos are shown. Oldfield-Carlson said all the exercises are related to physical therapy and are part of a sequence focusing on balance, strength and flexibility. “They are slow and intentional,” she said. Exercises such as shoulder rolls, leg raises while seated, and diagonal arm presses are done standing or sitting and help build leg strength, hip flexibility, ankle and wrist flexibility and more.
“Your muscles are getting a workout even though you don’t necessarily feel it,” Marttila said. “We just want to keep you moving.”
“We don’t do pull-ups or anything like that,” Oldfield-Carlson laughed. She added that physical activity at any age is important, no matter the ability level. She pointed out that one participant did not do any of the exercises that involved standing. “That’s fine. Did you notice she still did the activities with her feet while sitting?”
The eight-week course addresses an introduction to the program, exploring thoughts and concerns about falling, exercise and fall prevention, assertiveness and fall prevention, managing concerns about falling, recognizing “fall-ty” habits and fall hazards in the home and community, and practicing fall preventions: putting it all together.
On July 11, the seventh-week of Holy Family’s program, 12 area parishioners participated. After a review of week six, the group moved to chairs set in a circle and sat down. They began with deep breaths and did seated exercises. Marttila and Oldfield-Carlson took turns saying and demonstrating each movement and why that movement was important. Participants moved to standing exercises and back to seated exercises.
After the exercises, they returned to their seats and discussed recognizing fall hazards in their homes. The two coaches addressed potential hazards room by room. Participants shared what they have done in their homes or seen elsewhere to address some of the problems. They even shared stories of almost falling because of something they had done, and don’t plan to stand on a counter again, for instance.
Casey Wohlers said that after the first exercise class she didn’t think it did much for her. “Later that night I felt it in my wrist and ankles.” She did the exercises anyways. She realized the good they had been doing. “I think even the breathing they have us do gives me a little more energy.”
Marv Stolley said he attended because his wife told him they were going. But he has enjoyed the classes. His wife Cindy said he needed to hear from others about falling and recognizing limits. “They have a lot more knowledge than I do on these topics.”
Even after class finishes next week, participants are encouraged to continue their exercises at home. The workbooks contain all the exercises, descriptions and drawings of what to do.
“You need to move it or you’ll lose it,” Oldfield-Carlson said. “Inactivity does not help with aging. Just simple activities can help you in many ways.”