April Falls Day: Mid North Coast residents focus on improving balance for fall prevention

Bellingen residents Bill Peel, Thomas Hoffman and Gary Martin have benefited from the Stepping On fall prevention program.

FALLS are the focus of April Falls Day, the first day of a month-long balance, strength and independence awareness initiative supported by Mid North Coast Local Health District which encourages residents over the age of 65 to get hopping, leaping and standing on one leg.

For people aged in their mid-sixties and beyond, specific types of physical activity help reduce the risk of a fall and can maintain a person’s strength and independence.

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Falling over in your more senior years is nothing like when you were a toddler; if bones break they can take longer to mend, we lose the ability to save ourselves as we go down, and confidence can be knocked, meaning we can lose some independence.

Better Balance for Fall Prevention is the theme of this year’s April Falls Month* program, supported by the NSW Fall Prevention and Healthy Ageing Network.

April Falls Month is an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of falls and to promote the latest best practice fall prevention strategies, with the overall campaign goal to get active and improve balance for fall prevention.

Bellingen residents Thomas Hoffman, Gary Martin and Bill Peel recently participated in Stepping On, a free seven-week fall prevention program aimed at improving balance and movement, promoting hazard awareness and maintaining a healthy and independent lifestyle.

The trio signed up following a stint in hospital for Thomas, where he was confined to a wheelchair and had to undergo intensive physical therapy to get his mobility back.

“During the course we learnt how to walk safely, what obstacles to look out for, exercises to do to increase balance and strength and even what type of shoes are best to walk in,” said Thomas.

“It really built up my strength, confidence and motivation to move more.”

Gary Martin participated in the program as a carer and has seen a significant improvement in Thomas since his involvement in Stepping On.

“None of us were going to wrap ourselves up in cotton wool and sit in a corner; Thomas especially has more motivation to get out of bed, walk the dog and enjoy keeping his body strong and active,” he said.

Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA and President of the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society, Professor Kim Delbaere said, “Older people benefit from regular tai chi, group exercise programs, gym sessions, community-based falls prevention programs such as Stepping On, or simple exercises at home to improve muscle strength and balance.

“Research has also shown that regular exercise can reduce falls in older people by 23 percent, but slowly building up high-challenge balance exercises can increase the effects of exercise by up to 40 percent.”

The Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) has collaborated with the NSW Fall Prevention and Healthy Ageing Network to produce a range of April Falls resources for patients, families, carers and health staff with fall prevention information available on the CEC website at www.cec.health.nsw.gov.au.

To find a local exercise group that includes balance and strength exercises, visit the NSW Active and Healthy website at www.activeandhealthy.nsw.gov.au/.


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