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Staying well balanced in retirement

09 February 2012

Health Care

New exercise classes to keep older people sure-footed and safe will be starting this spring.

The postural stability courses, to be held at venues throughout south-eastEssex, are designed to instil balance, strength, confidence and enjoyment into older people and prevent them ending up in hospital after a fall.

Behind the classes are Southend University Hospital qualified physiotherapist and falls practitioner, Kate Chapman, and falls lead nurse Chrissie Newson, who are both passionate about their role. They have successfully tendered to run the 36-week pilot course, which is based on the pioneering work of the well-respected Later Life Training.

Kate said: "These classes are proven to be effective in restoring balance, strength and overall fitness. As well as reducing the risk of participants hurting themselves in a fall, they are also fun and sociable."

Chrissie added: "We are really excited about starting these classes as we know how effective they can be in giving more confidence to people who have had a number of falls and reducing their chances of further accidents."

Over the weeks, the exercises are tailored to match the increasing fitness and confidence of those taking part.

Kate said: "We start very gently with chair-based stretching and 'huff and puff' exercises and move on to standing exercises and perhaps some circuit work as the class gets fitter. But there are always alternatives if participants find they struggle with any particular part of the course."

The classes differ from other keep fit and active lifestyle courses in that they are tailored specifically to improve balance and so reduce the risk of people falling and needing hospital care. They also help improve bone strength and ward off the risk of osteoporosis.

Backed by Dr John Whitear, the hospital's associate specialist in elderly care, Kate and Chrissie are now recruiting to the classes and would like to hear from anyone who thinks they could benefit.

Eligibility criteria are that would-be participants:

  • Must be over 65 years old
  • Are living independently (ie not in a care/residential home)
  • Have had three falls in the past year
  • Are prepared to commit themselves to a weekly class for 36 consecutive weeks.

Kate said: "Naturally, we will understand if participants miss a class because they are ill or go on holiday for a week. But it is important that those who attend the course are prepared to keep at it. This is a trial and its success depends on real commitment."

All those interested will be seen by Kate or Chrissie to ensure there is no underlying medical reason for their falls and that they meet the other criteria.

If you think you would benefit from attending the active ageing classes, please call 01702 435555, ext 6161.