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Fall Prevention Month: Workout class helps seniors avoid falls

Senior stretching
Posted at 10:37 PM, Sep 18, 2023

BILLINGS — It's a sobering statistic—1 in 3 Montanans over the age of 65 have a fall each year.

"Falls have become our number one trauma," said Dr. Barry McKenzie, Trauma Medical Director at St. Vincent Healthcare. "We think of motor vehicle crashes, shootings, stabbings and all that, but we take care of geriatric elderly falls every day and they become, it's a big deal.”

Sickness, injury, long recovery times, even death, falls can have serious consequences, but there are ways to lessen the chances of one happening.

“Most importantly it's moving, it's getting up, it's improving your balance, your strength, your nutrition, all those things that go together, " Dr. McKenzie said. "If you do fall, you're just in better shape to give yourself a chance to recover from that.”

That's the target goal of a new type of workout class St. Vincent is bringing into the community through SAIL, which stands for Staying Active and Independent for Life.

“With the SAIL program, we're getting into the community and teaching this modified aerobics class and helping them get better at their balance and get that strength back," said Michelle Amundsen, who works with the St. Vincent Injury Outreach Prevention Team. Amundsen teaches a 10-week class series in senior residences in Billings.

“Another thing about it is the social aspect of it. Once you've had a fall, they might be scared to go out into the community again. They don't want to put themselves out there in fear of having another fall," Amundsen said. "This gets them together and we have a really, really fun time. I don't know who loves it more, me or them.”

Trisha Nichols is a resident at Central Court Village where SAIL classes are being taught.

"I feel stronger, my balance is better," Nichols said. "I can turn my head without getting dizzy, so yes my confidence is there."

As people look for ways to prevent falls, Nichols recommends a SAIL class if it comes their way.

"Every one of us would say our balance has improved," Nichols said. "It's just been such a blessing."

If you'd like to bring SAIL classes to your residence, contact SCL Health.