balanceOver the past decade, organizations that serve the elderly have been tooting the horn of the jargony “Evidence Based” healthy aging programs. In case you have never heard of these programs, the term means that there is proof out there in a lab that it works!

The first “evidence based” program we ran at the Eastern Area Agency on Aging was Matter of Balance. Now we have Growing Stronger, Healthy Choices, and Living Well, programs all proven to help older adults live well and age well.

I observed a couple of the Matter of Balance courses and was very impressed with the results reported to me by participants. Some participants couldn’t go from a sit to a stand without risking a fall prior to the class. Afterwards, they knew the right way to get in and out of a chair and they had built some strength to help them get up without assistance.

Falls Risk Assessment

A couple of years ago we teamed up with Husson University to provide falls risk assessments to older adults and since then many have learned about their own risk level for falling. I decided, at 62, to have an assessment myself. It’s hard to recommend something if you don’t really know what it’s all about anyway. Not that I felt that I had any problems with falling, but you never know. I thought my most immediate danger of falling occurs when I am playing volleyball and I need to reach a ground ball. (Like I ever do that!)

I was very impressed with the assessment. It starts with questions about your home which I think is where younger old people like me will score badly.

  • For example, are there handrails on the full length and both sides of all stairs and are all stairs well lit?
  • Is there any clutter on the stairs? That question is one where the assessor said many people answer yes because often people put shoes, laundry and all sorts of things on the stairs when they don’t want to go up or down them.
  • Are your belongings within reach?
  • Do you have night lights in the bedroom and bathroom?
  • Is your home free of clutter? I know there is a hassock that I beat my shin into every single morning before I get to the light! Falling is just a matter of time because of that thing.
  • Do you clean up spills immediately? And here is a big issue – do you have area rugs. They almost certainly assure a slip and a fall no matter what your age.
  • In the bathroom, have you installed grab bars?
  • Do you clean the soap scum in your tub and did you install anti skid materials on the tub/shower floor? I didn’t do that well on the environment score, but I certainly learned about how to improve my house for the long haul.

As you may guess I did alright on the vision, medication, history and physical score for now. It was hard to balance on one foot, but my competitive side made me overachieve, of course. If you haven’t had one of these assessments, I highly recommend you call Eastern Area Agency on Aging to set up an appointment. You can then learn about all the other programs that can help you stay at home for the maximum number of years. After all, we have the evidence that they work!