‘Stepping On’ class a strong asset to avoiding falls

Stepping On is a program to help older people regain control of their lives by knowing how to...
Stepping On is a program to help older people regain control of their lives by knowing how to avoid falling and the potential injuries that often follow.(press release)
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 3:39 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Stepping On is a program to help older people regain control of their lives by knowing how to avoid falling and the potential injuries that often follow.

One in four people age 65 or older has a fall each year. The Stepping On class, hosted by Liz Chamberlain with South Heartland District Health Department, provides education and actions to take to reduce falls, with the help of local experts such as physical therapist, pharmacist, and optometrist.

In the most recent class, three participants—Shirley Payne of Hastings; Margie Ormsby of rural Ayr; and Linda Dill of Doniphan—said they took the class due to getting older and noticing some balancing issues.

“I have to acknowledge getting older, so I wanted to get ahead of it,” Payne said.

The three agreed that the class taught them things they wouldn’t have thought about before, including being more aware of their surroundings, how different medicines could affect their balance, and keeping their muscles in shape.

“I was noticing more balancing issues and thought it [Stepping On] would be good information to use,” Ormsby said. “The strengthening and balance exercises were helpful, and the heal-to-toe walking was most beneficial for me. I tend to trip on my toes, and while I haven’t fallen yet, it was the most helpful to keep that from happening.”

Stepping On is a seven-week class that meets once a week for one-and-a-half hours. In the beginning weeks of the class, a physical therapist (PT) comes in to teach participants exercises they can do daily to improve their balance, as well as other exercises to do throughout the week to improve their strength.

Additionally, the PT will talk about how to safely navigate slopes and uneven sidewalks; how to properly use canes and walkers; and how to get up from a fall.

Other items discussed in class include making sure to remove any fall hazards around the house, and how a person’s vision and any medications they’re taking can contribute to falling.

During the class, all participants complete pre- and post-falls risk assessments to learn their own risk of falls before taking the program and their improvement after completing the program.

The assessment, called the Timed Up and Go exercise, measures how long it takes a seated person to stand up, walk 10 feet, turn around, walk back and sit down again. A score of 14 seconds or more means a person has a higher risk of falling.

Payne, Ormsby, and Dill said their Timed Up and Go measurements did change from the start of class to them finishing.

“I have a fear of falling…I’m out in the yard a lot so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take the class. My time did drop three seconds and it showed me I did need the exercises,” Dill said, adding, “I learned I do need the exercises and it’s never too early to do them, to keep my muscles in shape.”

Payne said her time was a little better and quicker, staying under the 14 second mark.

“My ending time was slower, but each day was different and I was still under 14 seconds,” Ormsby said.

The Stepping On program is an evidence-based program, meaning it has been proven to be successful in reducing falls in older adults.

The next Stepping On class will begin at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 20, in Superior at the auditorium. There will also be a class starting at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 31, at Good Samaritan in Hastings. For more information about Stepping On, or to sign up for the class, call South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 and visit with Liz Chamberlain.