Older Adults Stretching

Submitted by Carley Swanson, RN, BSN
Learning and Development Specialist for Evidence-Based Programming and Community Education at Sanford Medical Center Fargo

Often times communities may find their access to certain resources are limited. Perhaps there is a desire to attend diabetes or exercise classes, but there are none available in the community. Virtual classes can close the gap on resource availability and provide the option to attend a class in the home.

SAIL Program LogoStay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) is an evidence-based fall-prevention program that focuses on strength, balance and fitness for older adults. SAIL is a 55-minute,12- week program that meets twice a week and can accommodate those who have a mild level of mobility difficulty, such as occasional cane or walker users. This class may also be offered as an eight-week program offered three times per week and can be held in person or virtually.

The SAIL program includes a warm-up, aerobics, balance, strength training and stretching exercises that can be done in a seated or standing position. The virtual option has been a benefit for those who live in winter climates and those who may need to accommodate for COVID restrictions

This program has been implemented virtually for Sanford Health facilities and Good Samaritan Society residents starting in October 2021. Residents from Arkansas to Colorado have joined the program, and the instructors are located in South Dakota or North Dakota.

SAIL is offered over the Zoom platform, which allows facilities to join as a group, while others join individually, creating a flexible program that is adaptable based on technology and resources. To assist with virtual course offerings, Good Samaritan Society facilities locally support their residents with the registration and screening process. For those that do not have on-site assistance, the SAIL leaders provide that support to individuals who join on a one-to-one basis. Those participating in virtual SAIL classes have seen improvements in their strength and endurance in the first six weeks.

SAIL has been recognized by the National Council on Aging as an evidence-based program by demonstrating a 25 percent decrease in falls for those who participate and improvements on balance, mobility, and leg strength, which are known risk factors for falls (Shumway-Cook et. al, 2007).

SAIL classes can be implemented by any organization. Developed through a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Washington State Department of Health as a public domain program, SAIL has no recurring licensing fees. With the capability to deliver virtually, individuals can join from home, or groups can attend within a facility remotely. Alternatively, a staff member or volunteer can become a leader and offer the course in person. When doing group virtual classes, it is helpful to have someone on-site supervising and communicating with the virtual instructor.

To become a SAIL Program Leader, a background in fitness or exercise science is preferred, but not required. Current CPR certification is required. Leader training is offered virtually through Pierce College. Facilities and organizations can learn more about becoming trained as a SAIL Program leader, including implementation requirements through the National Council on Aging or SAIL Seminars.

Carley Swanson, RN, BSN
Learning and Development Specialist for Evidence Based Programming and Community Education

Other evidence-based fall prevention programs available regionally include Stepping On and Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance which can be accessed by North Dakota residents on the North Dakota Community Clinical Collaborative (NDC3) website. For individuals in South Dakota, Fit & Strong is available through the South Dakota State University Extension.

Source: Great Plains Quality Innovation Network Q Insider | January 10, 2022
Photo Credit: NCOA Falls Free® Photo Contest 2019; Stephanie Simpson