Balancing class helps Knoxville seniors avoid falls

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – One of the biggest worries we have about our parents or grandparents is that they may suffer a fall, especially if they live alone. UT Medical Center says 71 percent of people 55 and older admitted to the hospital through the emergency department are admitted because of a fall.

UT’s program called “A Matter of Balance” is designed to help that. About a dozen older adults have completed eight 2-hour balance class sessions at Karns Senior Center.

Under the guidance of class leader and UT Medical Center’s Community Health Coordinator Beth La Fontaine, the group does several exercises designed to help them gain strength and prevent falls. The exercises include everything from foot circles for building up ankle support, to marching in place which can actually help prevent falls, to performing reaching motions to help maintain balance when going for something on a high shelf.

“Fear of falling is such a huge thing, ” La Fontaine said. “It increases a person’s risk for falling, coincidentally. If you’re afraid to fall, you stop doing things. And if you stop doing things, you become inactive, and that just snowballs.”

Silvia Day is one of those who worries about falling because she’s already had one serious fall that left her with a broken foot.

“I live alone,” Day said. “I didn’t have my phone anywhere near me, and I couldn’t get up off the floor.”

Harold Absher enjoys the exercise program and the class work experience as the group works on problem solving, assertiveness training, sharing practical solutions, and learning to shift from negative to positive thinking patterns.

“The exercises that we do and the knowledge, the content that we learn – it motivates you to do things so you won’t lose your balance,” said Absher.

“We exercise together, we talk about things that are happening, our experiences, if we’ve fallen, what happened when we fell, if we’ve not fallen, how do we help others get over that fear?” explained La Fontaine.

Joyce Dalton is one of the fortunate ones who has not fallen. She credits a lifetime of exercise, but is taking the class as an ounce of prevention.

“To me, it’s just always been a part of my life. I’ve exercised since I was very young and I’m very healthy and I think that’s one of the good reasons why I am healthy.”

All remaining 2015 Matter of Balance classes are underway, but there are four classes scheduled for the first quarter of 2016:

  • Candleridge Plaza Apartments: January 16 – March 8, 2 to 4 p.m.
    3405 Harrow Gate Lane
    Knoxville, TN 37849
  • Maud Booth Garden Apartments: January 21 – March 10, 1 to 3 p.m.
    4452 Maud Booth Way
    Knoxville, TN 37917
    To register: call Jennifer Conway at Maud Booth Garden Apartments: (865) 546-0099
  • Halls Senior Center: February 17 – April 6, 2 to 4 p.m.
    4405 Crippen Road
    Knoxville, TN 37918
    To register: call (865) 922-0416

There is no fee for the classes, but registration is required.

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