senior-couple-walkingDid you know that every year, 1-in-3 seniors experience a fall, and 1.6 million older Americans are sent to the emergency room due to fall related injuries? Falls can be life changing, often resulting in near paralyzing fear, loss of self-confidence, and even loss of independence.

What Is Stepping On?

A community-based program called Stepping On, originally launched in Australia and subsequently adapted for U.S. audiences, is aimed at preventing falls and helping seniors maintain their independence. The classes are generally offered for a nominal fee, and the program’s effectiveness has been proven through a randomized trial that demonstrated a 31% reduction in falls among participants.

Topics covered in the 7-week course include appropriate footwear, household safety hazards, the effect of vision and medication management on fall risk, tips for staying safe outside the home, fall prevention strategies, and how to cope if a fall does occur. The classes also feature fun, easy to do strength and balance exercises intended to improve mobility and self-assurance.

Conducted by occupational therapists and other subject matter experts, the program helps to reduce fear that leads to inactivity and withdrawal from social activities. As seniors become more sedentary and isolated, their strength and balance suffers, which ultimately leads to increased fall risk. It quickly turns into a vicious cycle.

Criteria for Participation and What to Expect

The Stepping On program is intended for individuals age 65 and up who have experienced a fall, are at risk for falls, or have a fear of falling. Participants must meet the following criteria:

  • Live in their home or independent apartment
  • Are able to walk without the help of another person
  • Do not use a walker, scooter or wheelchair most of the time indoors
  • Are cognitively intact
  • Understand the language being used by the Stepping On Leader

Classes are small, generally having no more than 15 participants. This creates a supportive, non-threatening learning environment, fosters openness and sharing, and ensures a very personalized experience for each class member. One of the benefits to the format is that seniors are learning from others their age; by sharing their own experiences and helpful tips, they walk away with a sense of accomplishment and purpose as well as a higher level of confidence.

The Stepping On program is currently offered in many states, including Wisconsin, Montana, Minnesota, New York, Georgia, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, North Dakota, and Oregon. To find out if it’s offered in your area, contact your local or state Department of Aging.

Caregivers Reader Testimonial: This Works!

I’d like to thank reader Kathi Shelley for bringing this program to my attention. Kathi wrote, “I took this 7-week class at my local senior center, for $35.00, and I learned so much about keeping safe as we age. Not only did we have guest speakers and demonstrations on safety, we learned valuable exercises on balance and stretching to prevent falls. Since taking the class a year ago and doing the exercises daily, I have not fallen once!”

If you have experience with the Stepping On program, we’d love to hear your feedback.

11 Comments

  1. kathi shelley

    Thank you, Ann, for passing my good fortune with the Stepping On program on to your readers. I hope we convince thousands of people to give the program a try. They won’t be sorry. If they don’t have this program available in their area, they should talk to their local senior program, or at least their physician to get this going for them.

    • Lorelei

      you’re stepping on group sounds great. I wish they had it here in Washington state. I could really use a class like that I fall a lot. but the age group thing is wrong I am only 57.

      • Ann Napoletan

        Lorelei, the age restriction surprised me as well, but it’s entirely possible that they will make exceptions since the programs run independently in each community. Ask your doctor if he/she has ever heard of the program and perhaps contact your local/state department on aging. Even if Stepping On isn’t currently set up in your area, if the right people hear about it, maybe they’ll look into getting a program underway. It’s a “train the trainer” program, so you just need to find someone willing to go through the training to become certified to teach the classes. Good luck!! ~Ann

    • Ann Napoletan

      Absolutely Kathi! Here’s hoping it catches on. Thank YOU for sharing – otherwise, I may have never heard about the program! Take care. ~Ann

  2. Epoch Elder Care

    Great article!! Great tips to keep our elderlies safe from falling

  3. Stephanie Marlow

    The nursing home I work at recently invested in a Wii. Anything to get the seniors moving, and increase their fitness level slightly. Which should, combined with us providing a safe environment, should decrease the number of falls.

  4. Anne Hays Egan

    It looks like the federal government will be allocating increased funding for in-depth research on falls and fall prevention. That’s great news.

  5. megan Swann

    From the co-author of the program in Australia I loved your article See the website
    Stepping On is a fantastic program I am glad the USA is now taking the message up!
    Megan Swann

  6. Janice

    Participated in Murfreesboro’s Stepping On program at St. Clair Senior Center. Truly enjoyed my experience and feel much more confident about my golden age mobility.

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