COLUMBIA, Mo. – “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up! “Older viewers will remember the commercial that’s often cited as an example of frailty, but falls are no laughing matter, especially for older adults.
Now, University of Missouri Extension faculty, in partnership with Oasis Lifelong Adventure St. Louis, are leading a team of professionals across the state to help 6,000 older adults decrease their fear of falling, build muscle and increase bone density. The team recently received a grant of more than $500,000 from the Administration for Community Living to expand their fall prevention programs – “Stay Strong, Stay Healthy”, “Tai Chi for Arthritis Prevention” and “A Matter of Balance.”
“Faculty at Mizzou have made their strength training program for older adults a national model,” said Marshall Stewart, vice chancellor for extension and engagement. “Research has shown that regular strength training helps build muscle and increases bone density, which is crucial to fall prevention for older adults. I am thrilled that our team is finding ways to improve the lives of everyday people in Missouri and across the nation.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of four older adults fall each year, and the financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and could reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
The Mizzou team is led by Stephen Ball, professor and state extension specialist; Susan Mills-Gray, extension professor and state nutrition and health specialist; and Kelsey Weitzel, extension associate in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. The team also will collaborate to develop and deliver new programs for years to come.
“If we can help someone become physically stronger, we also help improve their flexibility and balance,” Mills-Gray said. “If we can improve flexibility and balance, we are going to prevent falls. If we can prevent people from falling, they can live independently longer and reduce their overall health costs.”
Stay Strong, Stay Healthy aims to provide older adults with access to a safe, structured and effective exercise program capable of building muscle and increasing bone density. Matter of Balance is designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase the activity levels of older adults who have concerns about falls. Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention combines stress reduction with movement to improve balance both mentally and physically, relieves pain for people with arthritis, and improves relaxation, vitality, posture and immunity.
“These classes are not only a way for older adults to build muscle in a safe, instruction-based class, they also offer a circle of support and bring people together,” Weitzel said. “Everyone is supportive of one another and works toward the same goal of improved quality of life.”
To learn more about sessions in Missouri please visit: Stay Strong, Stay Healthy and A Matter of Balance
The Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology is administered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the School of Medicine. The fall prevention programs are a part of MU Human Environmental Sciences Extension.
To learn about opportunities to participate in these programs in Greene County, contact Renettee Wardlow, human development specialist with MU Extension, at (417) 881-8909.