Among older Americans, falls are the No. 1 cause of injuries and death from injury.

MANSFIELD — Jim Hunter, 76, suffered a nasty fall in 2016, resulting in a wound to his arm that required plastic surgery. 

After that incident, the Shelby man said he made some changes around the house to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

When he learned about “A Matter of Balance,” a program designed to manage falls and increase activity levels, Hunter decided to sign up to see if he was on the right track regarding falls prevention and to find out what else could be done, if anything.

Hunter said he appreciated the “overall thoroughness” of the workshop, saying, “They go through what you need to do physically and set up a set of easy-to-do exercises that anyone who is at all healthy can do to improve core and ankle (strength), most different muscle groups that would have anything to do with walking.”

He said the instructors also discussed what to avoid, such as small, easy-to-skid rugs, “which we got rid of several since the course and replaced them with rubber-backed mats,” he said.

Educating the public on falls prevention is one of OhioHealth’s goals — especially considering the prevalence of falls.

“Falls are actually the No. 1 reason for injury at the trauma center, not only here in Mansfield, but nationwide,” said Wendy Gunder, outreach, education and injury prevention coordinator at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital Trauma Services.

Falls are a big concern for older adults, she added, because statistically speaking, 1 in 4 older adults will fall at some point in their lifetime, and 1 in 5 falls that are reported cause serious injury.

“Among older Americans, falls are the No. 1 cause of injuries and death from injury. This represents 29 million falls, 3 million emergency department (ED) visits, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 28,000 deaths,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Falls many times can cause broken bones, especially among older adults who have a higher risk of osteoporosis — a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. Aside from fractures, another common consequence of falls are head injuries — in fact, falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, according to Gunder.

“A simple fall can really change your life,” Gunder said.

But falls shouldn’t be considered an “inevitable” part of aging.

“They are completely preventable,” Gunder stressed.

As such, OhioHealth aims to promote falls prevention education and is currently conducting two falls prevention workshops, including A Matter of Balance and Stepping On.

A Matter of Balance is an award-winning program that emphasizes practical strategies to manage falls. During this eight-week series, participants learn to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risks at home, and exercise to increase strength and balance.

Stepping On is a seven-week program that has been researched and proven to reduce falls for older adults. Classes are led by health professionals concerned about falls and local guest experts who provide information on exercise, vision, safety and medications. 

“The falls prevention workshops that we do address modifiable risk factors,” Gunder said.

Modifiable risk factors include home safety, such as fixing loose or uneven steps in the home, or reviewing medications with a doctor to determine which medications can increase the risk of falling.

“We want people to have a good relationship with their doctor, to talk about fall risks and prevention and if they’re on any medication that could increase the risk of falling,” Gunder said.

Shiloh resident Faye Henderson, 76, said she gleaned several pieces of valuable information from the A Matter of Balance workshop.

“I’m a cancer survivor and my balance has been weak since chemo and radiation,” she said. “I was working on using Qigong sessions at home and in Florida, but I thought this class would teach me more than what I knew, and it definitely did,” she said.

One of her hopes in participating was to improve her balance, “and it certainly did,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe how much I had improved but could tell in daily activities and exercises that my balance had improved,” she said.

Not only that, but her posture improved and her confidence was boosted.

“I think it takes away the fear that you have of falling because you’re purposefully thinking about how you’re moving and where you’re going,” she said.

Both the A Matter of Balance and Stepping On workshops are ongoing, with classes taking place at the Shelby Senior and Community Center and the OhioHealth Ontario Health and Fitness Center, respectively. If you are interested in attending a falls prevention workshop, call 419-342-7223 to attend at the Shelby Senior and Community Center or 419-526-8900 to attend at the Ontario Health and Fitness Center.

To usher in the fall season and in recognition of National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, OhioHealth is holding its “Fall Into Fitness” Open House, during which the community can visit the Ontario Health and Fitness Center and OhioHealth Wellness and Prevention Center at no charge from Sept. 23 - 29.

OhioHealth will kick off its open house on National Falls Prevention Awareness Day (Sept. 23) with a “10 Million Steps” walk at the Ontario Health and Fitness Center at 10:15 a.m. (registration begins at 9:30 a.m.). The first 100 participants will take home a free pedometer. There will also be a drawing for door prizes. 


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Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.