Twenty-three of the almost 1,000 Washington County senior citizens who fell in 2008 died as a result, according to the most recent statistics from the Washington County Health Department.
That's one of the reasons health department officials hosted a fall-prevention program Wednesday at Girl's Inc. on Washington Avenue in Hagerstown.
Mary McPherson, the health department's program manager, said the event was held in conjunction with National Senior Citizen Center Month.
"It's a typical five-day hospital stay for seniors that fall," McPherson said. "Our focus is helping seniors reduce their fall risk."
The event was attended by about 130 seniors, who were taught the importance of exercising to decrease their chance of falling.
Exercise builds strength, and improves balance and coordination, the seniors were told. Those who participated were shown how to properly stretch and exercise their joints. They also had the opportunity to try line dancing, step aerobics and chair yoga.
Hagerstown resident Richard Rosander, 63, said he was invited to the event to demonstrate Tai Chi.
"I've been doing it for about 15 years," he said. "Tai Chi helps people with stability, balance and central equilibrium."
Rosander said Tai Chi also improves flexibility.
A resident of Ravenwood Lutheran Village, 91-year-old Grady Grimm said he attended the fall-prevention program because it's an excellent way to get out and have fun.
"I exercise the body, and I exercise the brain," Grimm said. "I get to watch all the pretty ladies. I get to have all the fun."
Grimm said he stays young for his age by walking every day, and line dancing on Mondays and Wednesdays.
At "over 55," Betty Hawbaker said Wednesday's event not only taught fall prevention, but gave seniors a chance to get their blood pressure taken.
"I think it's great to get everyone together like this," she said. "They have some great programs .... It's essential to a long, healthy life."
Washington County Senior Center Manager Kathy Fisher said center employees used the event to show the programs that the facility offers.
Some of those programs include painting, computer training, knitting and jewelry making, Fisher said.
The center also offers daily meals for $3 per person.
"We ask that they sign up a day in advance," Fisher said.
To learn more, call 301-671-2368.
Tips to prevent falls
- Exercise regularly.
- Take your time — get out of chairs slowly and get your balance before you walk.
- Keep walking areas uncluttered.
- Improve lighting in your home and have regular eye checkups.
- Wipe up spilled liquids immediately.
- Be aware of uneven surfaces.
- Wear well-fitted shoes.