Learning to balance: HKR runs fall prevention in Holyrood

“I didn’t really know what it was when I saw it advertised, but I do whatever I can to stay active for my health and well-being.” What Mary signed up for was a fall prevention program; a balance-based exercise program for seniors run by Human Kinetics and Recreation professor Dr. Jeanette Byrne and masters student Megan Cummings. The program was part of a research project Fall Prevention in Community Dwelling Seniors: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study.

The researchers ran two groups: One which received balance-based
exercises and an information session and a second group which received only the information session. To make recommendations for future programs, they wanted to know if the intervention program affected how confident they felt and whether there were balance improvements.

The exercise-based group met twice a week for ten weeks. They performed exercises and activities to challenge their balance. During the program, which wrapped up on Dec. 8, there was also information on fall prevention, how to reduce the risk and what to do after a fall. According to Mary, simple advice such as proper footwear around the house and getting rid of mats was very useful.

Fourth year kinesiology student Rebecca Lau helped run the program. “We didn’t have trouble getting participants. A few weeks before our study began we hosted an information session at the Holyrood Community Centre. Twenty-six seniors showed up to the information session and we had 22 participants.”

“Balance is very important as we age and our muscles get weaker,” added Lau. “Statistics show that as we age we are at greater risk for falling due to a number of factors such as vision, hearing, medications, home-hazards, etc. Hopefully, the results of this study will show how important these interventions are and how seniors can benefit from these programs.”

“Our 50 plus community is highly engaged in the town through special events and programs, and I’m excited to see an initiative as good as this start right here in the Town of Holyrood,” said Holyrood mayor Gary Goobie. “Thank you to Jeanette Byrne, her staff and our recreation department for providing this great opportunity.”

For Mary, it means that when winter ice hits, she will have a lot more confidence. “I feel safer and I’ve learned a lot. I’m more relaxed now and not as scared of falling.”

Funding for the program came from the Newfoundland and Labrador Healthy Aging Research Program (NLHARP), which is administered by Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research.