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Program aims to prevent senior falls

January 09, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Keeping senior citizens on their feet and out the hospital is the aim of "Healthy Steps for Older Adults," a program being offered by the Franklin County Community Services Department.

"Studies have found that falls are the most common cause of injuries for older adults," said Areli Breese, the Healthy Steps coordinator. "One in three people over the age of 65 fall at least once a year."

When a fall results in an injury that requires hospitalization, the average stay is more than five days and costs an average of almost $35,000, Breese said. Along with that, there is often a long-term loss of some mobility, she said.

Half of those who break a hip do not fully recover, according to the free booklet provided through the program. Half of those entering nursing homes do so because they have sustained an injury from a fall that no longer allows them to live on their own.

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The program is for people ages 55 and older, and the literature is available in both English and Spanish, Breese said.

The Healthy Steps program has been offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging since 2004, but this is the first year the program has been available in Franklin County, Breese said. Twenty-two sessions have been scheduled through May for retirement communities, nursing homes, senior centers and other venues, she said.

The program consists of two sessions that total four hours, Breese said. The first is about fall prevention and the second is about staying active, she said.

Some of the information is common sense: making sure floors are free of clutter, electric cords and other hazards; keeping hallways and stairs well lighted; making sure rug edges are taped down; and using rubber bath mats. There is a safety checklist and tips for every room of the house.

"Wiggle breaks" -- exercises to keep older adults strong and flexible -- are part of the seminars, Breese said. There is also role playing with a physician to help senior citizens keep doctors informed about their individual health issues.

The literature includes tips on nutrition to stay healthy and to prevent or slow osteoporosis; warmups; proper footwear and care; and balancing exercises.

Those wanting to attend a program, or organizations interested in hosting a seminar, may call Breese at 717-261-0631 or send an e-mail to her at abreese@co.franklin.pa.us.

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