September 25, 2012
County Reaches Out to Mature Adults through Innovative “Falls Prevention” Programs
Suffolk County’s Prevention Initiatives Teach Methods for Seniors Seeking to Remain Independent and to Prevent Falls
Great River, NY – Noting that falls and falls-related injuries are among the most common and serious medical problems experienced by senior citizens, County Executive Steve Bellone announced today that the county has armed over 2,000 senior residents with information on fall prevention through its ‘Stepping On’ and Staying Independent for Life programs. Both programs are designed to enhance balance and mobility among seniors.
The programs are part of a nationwide focus on falls prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every three people older than 65 falls each year, and according to the National Council on Aging, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury every 15 seconds. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for those aged 65 and over and chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase with age. Fall-related injuries often result in hip fractures, head injuries, broken bones and other conditions that can lead to a loss of independence for seniors.
Recognizing this trend, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in 2009 began working with community partners from local agencies, hospitals, colleges and organizations to create an Injury Prevention Committee, the first of its kind in New York State. Later that year, Suffolk County was one of three counties across New York State to be selected as a site for the ‘Stepping On’ program, which is a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) model program that has been shown to reduce the risk of falls by one-third in those participants. The program was rolled out in the spring of 2010.
‘Stepping On’ is a seven-week series of classes that empowers mature adults to carry out behaviors that reduce the risks of falls and improve their quality of life. Featured in the September 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the ‘Stepping On’ program has proven to reduce the number of falls for participants by 31 percent.
The program targets mature adults who are at risk of falling, have a fear of falling or who have fallen one or more times. Participants develop specific knowledge and skills to prevent falls in community settings and are empowered to carry out behaviors that reduce the risks of falls and improve their quality of life. Workshops, which are facilitated by two trained leaders (one a health professional and one a peer mentor) focus on improving balance and strength, home and community safety, vision, safe footwear and medication review.
“Suffolk County has an aging population,” said County Executive Bellone. “It is critical that we give our mature residents all of the tools and information they need to stay healthy and to prolong their active years.”
“Classes are highly participative,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Health Services. “Members offer one another mutual support, and as they gain success they also gain confidence in their ability to incorporate behaviors that will reduce the risk of falls and enable them to lead active and fulfilling lives.”
Florence Cooke, a senior citizen from Calverton who attended the “Stepping on Program” at the North Shore Library said, “The ‘Stepping On’ program provided everything needed to cause a senior like me to change my ways. Nellie, the coordinator of this program, was enthusiastic, passionate and knowledgeable, creating a warm inviting environment in which to learn.”
Since 2010 the county has conducted 24 ‘Stepping On’ sessions, reaching 268 Suffolk County residents.
In order to meet the high demand for participation in falls prevention programs, the Department of Health Services created an additional program, a two- hour program, entitled Staying Independent for Life. The program covers much of the information that is provided in the ‘Stepping On’ program. Since 2010, the Staying Independent for Life program has held 57 sessions and reached 1,730 participants.
The county also offers a brochure that details effective falls prevention strategies and was developed with the input of a focus group of Suffolk seniors.
For more information on Stepping On
or Staying Independent for Life
, residents may call: 853-3089.