The consequences of falls are substantial, including serious injury, loss of independent living and limits on physical activity. In 2019, falls were the second leading cause of injury-related deaths in North Dakota and the leading cause of injury-related deaths in individuals over the age of 65.
“A total of 437 North Dakota residents died due to falls from 2015 through 2019, an average of 87 deaths per year. The majority of older adults want to stay in their own homes as they age. Reducing the risk of falls can increase older adults’ quality of life by allowing them to age in place safely and independently. In addition, reducing the risk of falls can save thousands of dollars in health-care and long-term care costs for North Dakotans,” shared Jane Strommen, Ph.D., North Dakota State University.
Strommen works at North Dakota State University with her main focus being Aging and Wellness, which has many associated programs. In 2012, the Stepping On falls prevention program was introduced by the North Dakota Department of Health. Many local and state entities, such as NDSU Extension, became involved by supporting their staff members to become class leaders for Stepping On. Over the years, many Extension Family and Community Wellness agents have been trained to offer the program in their communities across the state. NDSU Extension has supported several staff members to become master trainers for the program, which allows new class leaders to be trained in the state.
In 2021, NDSU Extension launched Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance (TJQMBB), a national evidence-based falls prevention program. The TJQMBB program is designed to improve strength, balance, mobility and daily function, reducing participant’s risk of falling. This unique recreation-like physical activity program is more effective at reducing falls for older adults than conventional exercise approaches.
Statewide program evaluation data has shown the effectiveness of the Stepping On program in assisting older adults to gain a greater awareness of fall risk factors, taking control of their fall risk factors, exploring different coping behaviors and following through on safety strategies in everyday life. The program’s positive perception is reflected in this participant’s feedback, “This class should definitely be offered again and promoted so more seniors attend. One of the most useful pieces of education I have ever received.”
Early evaluation results indicate TJQMBB participants have gained a greater awareness of ways to reduce falls, increased their functional capabilities that help them remain independent, improved strength, postural control and range of motion and gained better balance.
Strommen concluded: “As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, interventions designed to assist them in maintaining independence, mobility, and quality of life will be increasingly important. NDSU Extension aims to function as a critical and effective partner in facilitating such programs and bringing their benefits to the lives of older North Dakotans.”
For older adults interested in classes, visit the North Dakota Community Clinical Collaborative (NDC3) website to view and register for scheduled Stepping On and Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance classes.
For individuals and community organizations interested in implementing falls preventions programs in their communities and learning about upcoming new class leader/instructor trainings, contact Jane Strommen at email@example.com.