Better Balance in Broome with Fall Prevention Programs

Submitted By

Claudia Edwards
Broome County Health Department, New York
August 7, 2013

(BINGHAMTON, NY) – During National Public Health Week the Broome County Health Department is putting the emphasis on Fall Prevention Programs. Each year, one in three Americans aged 65 will fall. According to the National Administration on Aging (AOA) falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for those 65 and over. Baby boomers are now joining the ranks of 65+, and if the rates continue as they are, injuries and deaths will escalate.

In 2009, AOA stated over 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments with more than 581,000 of these hospitalized. Additionally, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in older adults, accounting for 46% of fatal falls among seniors. Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls including 90% of hip fractures. Other fall related facts include; men are more likely to die from a fall; however, women are 67% more likely than men to have a nonfatal fall injury. The rates of fall-related fractures among older adults are more than twice as high for women as for men. Both men and women who fall, even those who are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause older adults not to conduct routine activities, leading to reduced mobility and physical activity, which increases the risk of falling due to weaker bone and muscles mass. The risk of falling does increase with age and after age 70, white women have higher rates of fall related hip fractures than African American women. AOA reports $28.2 billion a year is spent annually on treating older adults for the effects of falls. Fractures are both the most common and most costly type of nonfatal injuries. The average hospital stay for a hip fracture is one week; 25% of those suffering a hip fracture will need to stay in a nursing home for at least a year, with most of these significant costs typically paid by Medicaid. The National Council on Aging states that one hip fracture fall may cost up to approximately $60,000. According to recent population estimates 16.7% of Broome County are 65 years or older. A rate that is higher than both the New York State (NYS) rate of 13.4% and the national rate of 12.8%. This translates to one in five residents being age 60 and older. Over 40% of Broome County seniors are 75+ and the fastest growing population in Broome County is age 85+. The Broome County community health assessment from 2004-2006 revealed a notably higher fall related hospitalization rate for age 65+ in Broome County in: 293.4/10,000. The NYS Prevention Agenda set by the New York State Department of Health suggests reducing the fall related hospitalization rate among persons aged 65 and over in New York to no more than 155 per 10,000, by 2013.

In response to this trend, the Broome County Health Department and the Broome County Office for Aging have been working together for over a year; in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on a national Fall Prevention project that provides adults 65 and older with the opportunity to participate in different community fall prevention programs, focused on improving functional ability (balance, physical function) and, consequently, reduces fall-related risks and falls frequency. The local project is called Better Balance for Broome. “Broome County has an aging population and it’s critical that our Seniors have access to activities and Parks for exercise and recreation,” said Broome County Executive Debbie Preston. “Programs like Tai Chi keep our Seniors active and help prevent falling and hospitalization. Steps can be taken to prevent falling and it’s important that we recognize these important programs that offer our Seniors an opportunity to prolong their active years in an enjoyable setting.” One of the Better Balance for Broome fall prevention programs is Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance. Tai Chi is a graceful form of martial arts that has been tailored specifically for older adults and uses slow precise movements that can help them stay fit, reduce falls and some chronic diseases. Research done in several countries has shown that Tai Chi can reduce the risk of falling up to 55% and assists with improving arthritis, high blood pressure, poor balance, stress, and sleep patterns. “Our community is an aging community and helping our seniors stay active and independent is beneficial in many ways. No matter how old, adults should have the tools necessary for preventing falls. We are fortunate to have community partnerships and programs that extend the reach of public health in order to maximize fall prevention and health promotion,” remarks Claudia Edwards, Broome County Public Health Director. To help celebrate Public Health Week and healthy seniors, the YMCA in partnership with the Broome County Health Department and Broome County Office for Aging will be kicking off a Tai Chi class, starting April 3 at 11:00 a.m. at the Johnson City YMCA. Classes are open to adults ages 65 and over who can walk with ease with or without assistive devices. Classes will be held at the Johnson City YMCA for 12 consecutive weeks and will meet Tuesday’s and Thursday’s starting Tuesday, April 3 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

"The exciting thing about Tai Chi is that it strengthens and relaxes the body, sharpens the mind, and promotes balance without any pain, sweat or tears. The slow, gentle and continuous movements can be done anywhere, anytime, standing or sitting. Tai Chi is a fun way to get strong while feeling refreshed, relaxed and energized," states Gail Goldberg, YMCA Tai Chi Instructor. In addition to the Tai Chi program, a second evidence based fall prevention program has been implemented in Broome County called Stepping On. Stepping On is a program for adults ages 65 and older who are: • at risk of falling, • have a fear of falling, or • who have fallen one or more times. Stepping On is designed to empower older adults to carry out health behaviors that reduce the risks of falls, improve self-management, and increase quality of life. Classes for Stepping On will be announced shortly. Classes will be highly participative, where mutual support and success build the participants’ confidence in their ability to manage their health behaviors that reduce the risk of falls to maintain active and fulfilling lives. Topics covered throughout the 7 week period include: improving balance and strength; home and community safety; vision; safe footwear; and medication review.

“The Broome County Office for Aging is pleased to have a partnership with many community organizations led by the Broome County Health Department to reduce falls among elders in Broome County. Together we have created Better Balance for Broome. Over 300 senior citizens have participated in balance clinics and over 150 senior citizens have participated in a variety of evidence-based fall prevention programs. As stated earlier, Broome County had a higher rate of hospitalizations due to falls in the age 65+ population as compared to the rest of New York State. Since offering programs through Better Balance for Broome this number has improved significantly, from 293.4 to 241.9 per 10,000,” reported Kathy Bunnell, Director of Broome County Office for Aging. Older adults and their families are encouraged to learn more about fall prevention and how to participate in fall prevention programs. For more information about the Better Balance for Broome Program: Tai Chi or the Stepping On Programs, contact Mary McFadden at 607.778.3929 or by email at

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