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Better balance

Falls Prevention class helps eliminate older adults’ biggest fear

Created date

March 14th, 2017
Using large rubber bands, balance class participants build upper body and core strength. (From left) Ginny Cannito, Donna Murphy, Grace Edwards, Kathy Moffitt, Barbara Marty, Fitness Instructor Ray Lopez, and Richard Kiss.

Using large rubber bands, balance class participants build upper body and core strength. (From left) Ginny Cannito, Donna Murphy, Grace Edwards, Kathy Moffitt, Barbara Marty, Fitness Instructor Ray Lopez, and Richard Kiss.

Did you know we start to lose our balance at age 30? Not 80 or 70 or even 60. It’s a startling statistic, but luckily, balance is something we can improve and strengthen at any age. 

Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., offers a ten-week Falls Prevention class through its on-site Rehabilitation and Wellness Center. Specifically designed for older adults, the center combines state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment and care with wellness services like massage therapy and group fitness classes.

Proactive approach

“We want to prevent falls as much as possible because statistics show that, once you fall, it increases your chances of having something more significant happen,” says Assistant Rehabilitation Manager Danielle Cusimano. “We aim to keep people out of the hospital; we want to keep them as independent and safe as possible. It’s definitely a proactive approach to health and wellness.”

The weekly, hour-long Falls Prevention classes incorporate lower-extremity strengthening exercises with physical and cognitive activities like bouncing a Ping-Pong ball on a paddle while walking, traveling through an obstacle course, and standing on uneven surfaces like foam pads. 

Physical therapist Jorge Gutierrez leads the balance classes of eight to ten participants while fitness specialist Ray Lopez supervises. They use chairs, cones, foam pads, Ping-Pong balls and paddles, weights, floor ladders, and stability balls as props: “Basically anything possible,” says Gutierrez. 

Through 28 activities, they test each participant’s level of balance, once at the beginning of the session and again at the end to mark progress. The tests include standing with eyes closed, use of steps, standing up from being seated in a chair, use of a walking aid, stride, and turning in a full circle, among others. 

The presession balance test also determines group placement. Gutierrez offers two classes: one for people with higher levels of balance and one for people with lower levels of balance. 

“The major issue with being older is falls,” says Gutierrez. “The classes give participants an opportunity to work on strength and balance, what to do if you fall, and how you can safely board the shuttle and use stairs, and ramp training.”

Gutierrez and Lopez conduct a postsession survey to measure participants’ confidence and overall satisfaction with the course. “At the end, they typically say they are more confident and don’t have a fear of falling, particularly if they have fallen before,” Gutierrez reports. 

Strength and flexibility

Joan Francis has taken three sessions of Falls Prevention at Cedar Crest. “I’m using it as a preventive action. I want to keep the balance I have,” she says.

Joan says the classes have not only helped her improve balance but also strength and flexibility. “You get a lot of stretching in and a lot of different tasks for balance. It’s a nice mix; you don’t get bored with it,” she says.

Joan, who also takes Stretch and Tone and Qi Gong, appreciates the camaraderie of all fitness classes at Cedar Crest. 

“It’s fun because you meet a lot of residents. It’s a social thing as well,” she says. “I would recommend it to anybody.”

 


 

Balance confidence quiz

The Falls Intervention team at Cedar Crest created a quick quiz to help you gauge your level of balance confidence. Think about the tasks listed below and mark your confidence level based on how you feel, not how you think you should feel based on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being least confident and 10 being most confident. 

1. Getting up out of a chair using your hands without losing your balance.

2. Getting up out of a chair not using your hands without losing your balance.

3. Walking up a flight of stairs using the handrail without losing your balance.

4. Walking up a flight of stairs not using the handrail without losing your balance.

5. Getting out of bed without losing your balance.

If you feel that you answered these questions truthfully and feel that you aren’t as confident as you thought, contact the Cedar Crest Rehabilitation and Wellness Center for Falls Prevention class information at 973-831-3670. 

Cost for the class is $75 per ten-week session, and it is open to both Cedar Crest residents and nonresidents.

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