'Steady As You Go' fitness programme a winner with Whanganui's elderly
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11 February 2016
 
Age Concern Wanganui is delighted with the level of interest older people are showing in the new Steady As You Go fitness programme.
 
While most participants are in their 80s, one ‘class’ member is aged 100 and Age Concern Wanganui manager Tracy Lynn says another recently celebrated their 101st birthday.
 
The focus of the once-a-week, hour-long class is strength and balance with stretching, sitting and standing exercises, weights on ankles, and eye exercises to improve people’s peripheral vision. Having the opportunity to socialise and form friendships is an added bonus.
 
Steady As You Go was developed and implemented 13 years ago by Age Concern Otago who are believed to have enrolled hundreds of participants during that time.
 
Aware of how effective it’s been in helping to reduce falls among the elderly, ACC has contracted Age Concern New Zealand to pilot Steady As You Go in Whanganui and Tauranga where it’s creating a lot of interest in both cities.
 
Whanganui District Health Board director of nursing and Health Quality and Safety Commission clinical lead for the Reducing Harm From Falls programme Sandy Blake says it’s exciting that Whanganui was chosen for the roll-out.
 
“I’ve heard Tracy say two things that really resonate with my thinking: ‘Falls ARE preventable’ and ‘Falls are NOT a natural part of ageing.’
 
“Anything we can do to encourage our older members of the community to keep up their strength and flexibility is worth celebrating. Besides the pain that falls cause, they are debilitating for all age groups.
 
“Tracy and I view the Steady As You Go programme as the fence at the top of the cliff – a programme we know is enabling some participants to question, with support from their health providers, whether they need their walking sticks and walking frames.”
 
Meanwhile, Age Concern Wanganui’s Steady As You Go coordinator Janet Lewis uses a prescriptive Steady As You Go CD to guide the classes and those she hopes will take up the offer to become a peer leader at the end of the 10-week programme. Peer leaders will do a First Aid course and receive ongoing support, she says.
 
To help prevent themselves and others from falling while out walking, Steady As You Go members are being encouraged to call the Whanganui District Council to report uneven footpaths.
 
Anyone interested in joining Steady As You Go, is asked to call Age Concern at 06 345 1799. The programme is currently running in Marton and Bulls. Mrs Lynn and Mrs Lewis hope to start a class in  Hunterville in April.

Did you know that:
  • Falls are the cause of around 40 percent of ACC claims from people aged between 65 and 69, and around 60 percent of claims from those aged over 85.
  • If you’re over 65, you have a one in three chance of falling.
  • For people aged 80 and over, the risk of falling increases to one in two.
  • The anticipated lifetime cost to ACC of older people falls in 2013 was $351 million.
  • Severity of fall-related injury increases with age – an 80-year-old has 15 times the risk of a hip fracture compared with a 65-year-old.