While falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injury for people 65 years of age and older, they are not an inevitable part of aging. “Falls are the third leading cause of injury death in the South Heartland area and nearly 80% of deaths due to fall injuries are among persons 75 years and older,” reports Michele Bever, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD).
“Although our rate of injury-related hospitalizations is less than half the Nebraska rate, we still have room for improvement,” Bever said. “We encourage seniors to take advantage of programs like Tai Chi to help prevent falls.”
Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance is a program offered in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties by the SHDHD. This program helps older adults improve their balance and reduce their chances of falling. Tai Chi is an exercise-based activity recognized by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as an evidence-based fall prevention program.
Tai Chi is a graceful form of exercise that involves a series of movements, known as “forms” that are performed in a slow, focused manner combined with controlled breathing. It is low impact exercise that puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it suitable for many older adults. It doesn’t require special equipment and can be practiced indoors or outdoors, either alone or in a group.
Tai chi helps to:
- Improve balance
- Increase leg strength
- Reduce fear of falling
- Improve mobility
- Increase flexibility
- Improve psychological health
At senior centers and other community-based organizations across the United States and in the four-county South Heartland health district, programs like A Matter of Balance, Tai Chi, and Stepping On help older adults gain strength, improve balance, and build confidence to help them live healthier lives and preserve their independence.
“We are measuring strength and balance improvements in our local Tai Chi participants,” said Liz Chamberlain, SHDHD Tai Chi Program Coordinator, “and our participants are eager to share how Tai Chi classes are improving their abilities and their quality of life.”
South Heartland District Health Department receives fall prevention grant funding from Nebraska DHHS and partners with Midland Area Agency on Aging to offer Tai Chi classes in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties. Classes are 2 days a week for 12 weeks. To learn more about fall prevention and Tai Chi, or to sign up for the next available Tai Chi classes in your county, contact SHDHD (402-462-6211 or 1-877-238-7595).
Michele M. Bever, PhD, MPH
South Heartland District Health Department
606 N. Minnesota Ave, Suite 2
Hastings, NE 68901