When Maria Leblanc agreed to become the coordinator of Forever…in motion, a physical activity program at Tuscany Ridge seniors’ condo in Saskatoon, she had no idea how it would resonate with other residents. Leblanc and a group of volunteer instructors offered the Saskatoon Health Region program earlier this year. “We were expecting five or six people to sign up,” she says. “We were shocked when 26 signatures quickly appeared on the sign up sheet.”

That kind of interest is not unusual for the various balance and physical activity programs offered by the Region. In fact, it seems many older adults are open to talking about how they can prevent falls and injuries through physical fitness.

Janet Barnes gets teary eyed when she remembers one of her earliest experiences with the Staying On Your Feet program. The Region’s senior recreation therapist says, “I had been contacted by one of the residents of Riverside Terrace. She had been given an exercise program by her physical therapist and she was having a hard time getting motivated to do it on her own.” The woman wanted a group setting where others could also benefit from the exercises. A few phone calls and lots of planning later, Barnes and the physical therapist, Jo Ann Walker Johnston, set up the Staying on Your Feet program. “The four month pilot at Riverside showed amazing difference in the confidence of the older adults from before they took the program to after,” recalls Barnes.

Saskatoon Health Region has made falls prevention one of its top priorities under the heading of “safety culture.” One in three older adults over the age of 65 will fall this year and one in two over the age of 80 will fall. Falls occur because of multiple and often complex reasons. Falls are the cause of 57 per cent of all injury-related hospitalizations, and more than three quarters of all in-hospital deaths are those admitted for an injury according to national statistics.

The Region’s falls prevention coordinator, Daphne Kemp, has seen the impact of falls on people at her former workplace as well as personal experience within her own family.

“The bottom line is that falls prevention is a responsibility we all share,” says Kemp. “We want to take this out of the hands of any one group and remind everyone that we play an equal role in preventing falls among our hospitalized patients, long term care residents and our clients in the community.”

The Region is also asking physicians and pharmacists to promote vitamin D3 supplements to their patients when appropriate, as a way to prevent falls and injuries.

For staff in hospitals, long term care and in community care, the Region is promoting the use of “three questions” prior to leaving the care setting. ‘Do you need to use the toilet?’ ‘Do you have any pain or discomfort?’ and ‘Do you need anything before I leave?’ “Asking these questions will ensure that our clients get a final opportunity before we leave the care setting to ask for and receive assistance,” says Kemp.

For more information on falls prevention visit Seniors’ Health and Continuing Care on InfoNet or on the Region’s website.