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Marymount program has helped thousands of older adults reduce risk of injury from falls

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For older adults, falls continue to be a leading cause of unintentional injuries and hospital admissions for trauma that can take a serious toll on quality of life and independence. But a $1 million fall prevention program at Marymount University in Arlington is helping to teach older adults in Northern Virginia how to protect themselves. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, programs also have been offered online.

Thanks to two federal grants, Marymount has been working with community organizations for the past four years and has trained more than 378 workshop leaders in evidence-based fall prevention techniques. They have offered 173 workshops across the region, teaching fall prevention strategies to 3,985 older adults. Grant funding is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living.

“You can’t prevent all falls, but you can drastically reduce the number of older adults who fall, and particularly the number who fall and get hurt,” said Rita Wong, associate vice president for research at Marymount and principal investigator of the grant team.

In an effort to maintain a presence in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sara Pappa, assistant professor of health and human performance, and other partners have offered online strength, balance and fitness programs for older adults who are at low-to-moderate risk for falling. The grants also support small group sessions led by trained facilitators to reduce fear of falling and teach older adults at higher risk of falling how to improve their strength and balance using targeted exercises, under the guidance of physical therapists.

She said older adults are often hesitant to exercise because they fear that increased activity will cause them to fall, but “staying physically active and exercising regularly are vital to minimizing the risk of falling.” She added that specific types of exercises have been demonstrated to effectively decrease risk.

During National Falls Prevention Awareness Week Sept. 21-25, Marymount and its community partners hosted several virtual fall prevention information and exercise events, as well as a free, socially distanced outdoor fitness check to evaluate risk of falls in older adults.

Find out more

For more information on fall prevention, go to the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance website, novafallsprevention.com




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020