For many individuals walking through the neighborhood, taking out the garbage, or driving to the grocery store are simple and unremarkable tasks. But, for some in the community, these activities are overwhelming due to the rigors of aging, declining health, and limited mobility. Due to the fear of falling many local seniors find themselves struggling to complete day-to-day tasks.
In fact this fear is one of the most common experienced among seniors all across the country and falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans.
Fortunately, in the Monterey Bay area local senior programs and volunteer groups have teamed up to address this pervasive issue through the launch of “A Matter of Balance”.
A Matter of Balance, a national program developed by the Administration on Aging, is designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults through an 8 session class offering goal setting, safety awareness, and simple exercises to increase strength and balance.
Since the local launch of the program one year ago, 28 seniors have graduated from the class.
“We’ve been fortunate to bring this program to our community with the support of a core group of volunteers from the Volunteer Center program RSVP,” states Monterey Bay Retired Senior Volunteer Program Director Tara Ireland.
RSVP volunteers have taken the lead to serve as volunteer coaches and recruit participants throughout the tri-county area. Volunteer coaches are asked to complete approximately 10 hours of training and serve as class facilitators for a minimum of 2 classes within the first year of receiving their coaching certification.
“Six RSVP volunteers have completed their coaching certification thus far and we are looking for more individuals who want to take on this role,” states Ireland.
RSVP is a national service program for Americans 55 years and older where volunteers commit their time to address critical community needs. Each year Senior Corps Programs like RSVP engage more than 220,000 older adults in providing community service across the country.
Locally, the Volunteer Center RSVP program works with more than 300 volunteers annually from the Tri-County areas of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito Counties and in the last year these individuals provided 76,235 hours of service.
“We are proud to connect this highly capable crew of volunteers with this particular project. They are bringing their seasoned skill and know-how to the table, to successfully implement this evidence-based program and we are seeing excellent results because of it,” states Ireland.
“Our goal with all of our Senior Program Services is to support seniors in maintaining their independence and connection to community. A Matter of Balance has been the perfect addition to our offerings. It allows us to connect volunteers with a crucial need and support our seniors in maintaining independence at the same time,” states Ireland.
“Through this program, RSVP Volunteers are creating a truly life changing experience for older seniors and their families,” continues Ireland.
A Matter of Balance senior participant Dolores Edmonds, age 72 couldn’t agree more.
“I am so appreciative of this program. I thought this was just an exercise program, but A Matter of Balance offers so much more. I have learned to be more aware of my surroundings, safety, and how to improve my environment,” states Edmonds.
As a Santa Cruz Native, who has raised two children, held a 30-year career in education, and has been the former caregiver for fellow family members, Dolores found it challenging to admit she was the one who now needed help.
“Now that I am getting older and experiencing my own health challenges, it has been very hard to admit there are areas of my life that I do need assistance. My memory is diminishing, and my emotional and physical senses have weakened. I finally admitted my limitations to my family, and although they are out of town, they made some phone calls to local friends and before I knew it there was a support team in place. I feel so relieved to have taken the steps to ask for help,” states Edmonds.
“This program helped me open the door to a better future,” continues Edmonds.
A Matter of Balance classes will continue throughout the next year. The next program happening in October 2018 is currently full but more classes will be developed this fall based on expressed interest. Additionally, the Volunteer Center is currently recruiting more volunteers to serve as coaches for this program.