Olentangy Valley News

Program helps senior citizens stay on their feet

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Two local agencies have renewed their partnership to help seniors avoid slips and falls.

The Council for Older Adults of Delaware County recently announced it had awarded $25,601 to the Delaware General Health District to help fund its Falls Prevention Program.

The program, which is funded completely by grants and donations, offers balance and tai chi classes, as well as home assessments.

Fara Waugh, director of client services for the Council for Older Adults, said her agency has supported the program since 2008. She said council officials think a little education and training can go a long way toward preventing falls.

"I think a lot of people think falling is a natural part of aging, and it's not," she said.

According to health district statistics, 2,973 Delaware County residents age 65 or older reported falling in 2013, while 505 residents reported suffering a fall-related injury.

The district's A Matter of Balance classes begin March 4 and run through November at the Center for Older Adults, 800 Cheshire Road, Delaware. The classes offer "non-strenuous" exercise and opportunities to talk about fall prevention.

Waugh said the district uses an evidence-based program in its classes that has been proven effective in reducing falls.

The district's tai chi classes also are expected to begin sometime in March.

Traci Whittaker, spokeswoman for the health district, said classes are not typically held in the winter. The home assessment program, however, is available year-round.

Whittaker said after a resident contacts the district or the council about a home safety check, a registered nurse and the district's falls prevention coordinator will visit their home. The pair will then "look for any challenges that might be in the way."

Whittaker said the suggested fixes could be as simple as moving a piece of furniture or pushing electrical cords out of the way. If the district identifies a more-expensive need, it will reach out to the council, which will work with residents to pay for the modification.

"We can have grab bars installed," Waugh said. "That's particularly helpful in the bathrooms and showers."

The agencies also can help residents tackle stair and ramp modifications, if needed.

In 2012, 82 county residents attended balance classes through the program. The district completed 29 home assessments, which led to three modifications. Last year, 92 residents attended balance classes. The district completed 27 home assessments and made seven modifications.

For more information about the Falls Prevention Program, call the Delaware General Health District at 740-368-1700 or the Council for Older Adults at 740-363-6677.

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