Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits among adults 65 and older. Each year in New York state, an average of 900 residents ages 65 and older die from injuries sustained from falls, and more than 128,000 are treated at hospitals due to falls. In Chautauqua County 11 people die from fall-related injuries each year, 427 people are hospitalized and 1,080 visit the ER. Every day our EMT services receive 20 calls for falls. Falls can result in lasting, serious consequences, affecting mobility, independence and mental health. Fortunately, the risk of falling can be reduced through small steps like annual eye exams, exercise programs to improve strength and balance and simple environment changes.
Because of the serious impact that falls have on seniors' independence, Chautauqua County Office for the Aging has placed the focus of our community exercise and wellness programs on those that reduce falling in older adults, and we are working with many community partners to bring these evidenced-based programs to you. Over the last several years, OFA has partnered with NY State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Health Foundation of Western and Central NY, and several community partners on exercise programs and falls-education programs.
Exercise programs to reduce falls focus on improving balance and muscle control, a major factor in your body that can contribute to falls. Walking alone, while good for your health, does not reduce the risk of falling. Falls education like the "Stepping On Program" explores not only the body factors like eyesight, medications and balance that contribute to falls but also explores environmental factors that contribute to falls. You see, there are many things that can contribute to falling, but the good news is there are many simple things you can do every day to prevent a fall. The key is being aware of your risk and making small changes that fit with your living situation and lifestyle. Fall prevention is not one size fits all. There are many reasons people fall and many things you can do to reduce your risk of falling.
Exercise programs that focus on improving balance is one way to reduce your falls risk. Tai Chi and healthy bones are two programs offered through OFA and our community partners that can significantly reduce your risk of falling. OFA, RSVP, the Resource Center and several senior groups offer these programs several times a year at different sites around the county. Unfortunately the demand for these programs has exceeded our capacity, so we are pleased that the CDC has recently reached out to the Y of USA to help increase the availability of Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance Program.
Our Jamestown Y was one of the first in the country chosen to help expand the program. Meg Pickard, master trainer in Tai Chi at the Y, began training new leaders in July, and this month five new Tai Chi programs will begin: one at the Jamestown Y, two in Lakewood and two on the campuses of Heritage Village and Lutheran Social Services.
What a great way to kick of Fall Prevention Months. This Tai Chi course lasts 12 weeks. If you are interested, thinking about tai chi but cannot get to these classes, OFA also has an intro to tai chi course on CD for senior groups. For more information on Tai Chi fall prevention, contact the Jamestown Y or OFA NY Connects program at 753-4582, 363-4582 or 661-7582.
Healthy bones exercises (also known as Tuft's University Strong Women program) not only reduces falls but also reduces the consequences of falls by building up your bones through progressive weight training and balance. This program is great news for people who have osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Healthy bones and tai chi are community exercise programs for seniors, but these may not be ideal for people who have multiple health issues and have trouble getting out of their home. For homebound seniors and people with developmental disabilities, OFA, the NY State DOH and the CDC are teaming up with the VNA of WNY and The Resource Center to offer Otago training. This fall prevention exercise program allows you to work one on one with a physical therapist and is covered by Medicare. Seven therapists at the VNA and three at The Resource Center are now certified in this program. Call NY Connects or these agencies for details about the program.
Since National Fall Prevention Awareness Day is celebrated on the first day of tall, several community agencies are once again hosting the "Journey to Active Aging" event with a focus on fall prevention. This will take place at the Lakewood Rod and Gun on Sept. 27 and the keynote speaker is Dr. Betty Perkins-Carpenter, a leader in fall prevention. Dr. Perkins-Carpenter was so engaging at last year's event that she was invited back. Her simple strategies for reducing falls and incorporating balance training into your daily routine make her a hit with seniors across the country. OFA, the Department of Health, and other community agencies will be in attendance with more information about fall-prevention services. To register for this event contact Judy Goerke at 488-2322.
How do you know if you are at risk for a fall? Screening for falls risks is another important ingredient to prevention. OFA has several simple free screening tools to helps assess yourself with many practical suggestions to choose from to reduce your risk. Additional resources and ideas for fall prevention can be found on the National Council on Aging website at www.ncoa.org and the NY State department of Health website www.nyhealth.gov under injury prevention/falls in older adults; or call the OFA NY Connects helpline at 753-4582 or 363-4582 or 661-7582. Remember we are here to help you.