Op-Ed: A matter of balance


The author is a certified yoga and Matter of Balance instructor.

Do you know who is most at risk of falling? If you guessed the older adults, then you are partially correct. Children also have a high risk of falling. However, older people have the highest risk of death or serious injury arising from a fall and the risk increases with age.

One in three seniors aged 65+ falls each year, and this number increases to one in two by the age of 80. Nevertheless, falls are not an inevitable part of aging and are also largely avoidable.  Physical exercise and balance training have shown to be beneficial for fall prevention in older adults.

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, there are four things you can do:

1. Begin a regular exercise program;

2. Have your health care provider review your medicines

3. Have your vision checked

4. Make your home safer (improve lighting, install handrails and grab bars, keep often used items in easily reachable cabinets, etc.)

Since 6 out of 10 falls occur in the home, making simple changes in the home as well as personal and lifestyle changes can prevent many falls. Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center located in Flushing provides an integrated approach to assist older adults to implement these changes that helps reduce the chance of falling.

Besides daily Tai Chi classes, the center provides gentle chair yoga classes as well as programs geared to fall prevention such as Matter of Balance. The Matter of Balance is an evidence-based program addressing physical, emotional and environmental factors that may cause a fall. In addition to exercise, participants will:

1. Learn fall prevention strategies

2. Develop a personal plan to carry out fall prevention strategies

3. Make step by step changes in their daily lives, which help reduce fear of falling

Julia Harrison, former city councilmember and current participant of the program retrofitted her bathroom to make it more available and safer for her to use as a result of what she learned during the course of the Matter of Balance program.

Elsa Gerus is an avid dancer was diagnosed with stenosis of the spine. There were times when she was unable to stand upright. Since completing the Matter of Balance program, she has incorporated the movement exercises as well as meditation in her daily life. Elsa is now not only able to stand straight but is back to dancing again.

The Matter of Balance program is offered at Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center in Flushing and Peter Cardella Senior Center in Ridgewood.

If you are interested in learning more about the programs available for seniors, contact your local senior center or you may call Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal at 718-886-5777 and Peter Cardella Senior Center at 718-497-2908.

For more information on senior health offered by the National Council on Aging, visit www.ncoa.org/improve-health



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