It’s official: I just turned 65 and enrolled in Medicare. One of the first documents I received urged me to talk to my doctor about my risk of falling. According to the statistics, I am now in a high risk category: among those age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury and death. That got my attention!

Many falls do not cause injuries, but one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury. These injuries can be life changing for the person who fell, and the people who care about them. After an injury, life can become difficult for a person to do everyday activities or live independently, and falling is often the event that forces a person to move to another, safer, setting.

Even if they’re not injured, many people who fall become afraid of falling, causing them to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person becomes less active, they actually become weaker and this increases their chances of falling. Action – not inaction – is needed to reduce the risk of falling.

Here’s the good news: falls can be prevented. Having the right mindset about this challenge of aging is critical to aging well. There are some simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling. Besides talking with your doctor, you can better understand your risks by enrolling in an adult education workshop called Stepping On.

Stepping On is a program that empowers older adults to carry out health behaviors that reduce the risks of falls. The workshop, offered once a week for seven weeks, focuses on the knowledge and skills needed to prevent falls.

Mary Gray, Director of Rehabilitation at Lakeview Hospital and Stillwater Medical Group, has been teaching the Stepping On class for five years and has seen how it can make a difference. “We had a 77 year old man who had been falling multiple times a week when he started the class. By the third week, he had only fallen twice. Then he went a full month without a single fall. He commented that the exercises helped him improve his balance and strength and he learned how to be more aware of his surroundings.”

Stepping On will help you build the balance, strength and practical skills you need to avoid falling. The learning takes place in a fun, hands-on way, putting information to use from the very first session. Local experts, trained leaders, and other group members support and encourage you to find solutions to make your home safer and your body stronger. You’ll regain the confidence to stay active in your community and do the things you want to do.

In just seven weeks, you’ll learn:

  • Strength and balance exercises you can adapt to your individual level.
  • How vision, hearing, medication, and footwear affect your risk of falling.
  • To identify and remove or avoid fall hazards at your home.
  • How to get back on your feet the right way if you do fall.

The class will meet on Thursdays, January 9 through February 20 from 1- 3 pm at the Stillwater site of Community Thread. The cost is only $15 for the entire 7 week series and payment is due by January 6. Class space is limited.  Please call 651-439-7434 to register. Empower yourself to avoid falling and becoming a statistic. It is central to your independence.

By: Sally Anderson