Upcoming Northborough workshop reduces fear and risk of falling   

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By Christine Galeone, ontributing Writer

Northborough – The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For many senior citizens, overcoming the fear of falling can seem like an impossible journey. But conquering that fear can actually decrease the chances of falling.  And the journey begins with “a single step.”

This spring, area seniors have the chance to take that step at the Northborough Senior Center at a free eight-week workshop entitled “A Matter of Balance.” The series of classes which aims to reduce the fear of and decrease the chance of falling will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays from April 4 until May 23 at the Senior Center, 119 Bearfoot Road.

The workshop is associated with the National Council on Aging’s (NCOA) “A Matter of Balance” program. Its goal is to reduce the number of falls among older adults through structured classes that provide participants with practical strategies to decrease their fear of falling, while increasing their activity levels. According to the NCOA website, program participants “learn to view falls and fear of falling as controllable, set realistic goals to increase activity, change their environment to reduce fall risk factors, and exercise to increase strength and balance.”

At the senior center, the series of classes will be led by Mimi Flanary, who works for the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. Because of her field of expertise, the classes will be especially helpful to those with visual impairments. But the group discussions and exercises that are part of the program can be beneficial to everyone. “The ‘A Matter of Balance’ class is the best way for any senior to alleviate their fear and decrease their chance of falling,” said Flanary.  “Any senior can benefit from this program.”

Flanary, who has led the classes at other senior centers, has witnessed the life-enhancing power of the program. She recalled how one woman shared her experiences of past falls with her group and raised awareness of what prompts some falls and what happens during and after them. A couple who had participated in the program became physically stronger because of the exercises. And a widow who lived alone received more than she had hoped for.

“Her goal was to live safely in her home and obtain information on fall prevention,” said Flanary. “At course conclusion, she expressed confidence in gaining physical strength, knowledge in home safety and awareness in fall education.”

That education can have a significant impact on a person’s life and wellbeing. While the NCOA reports that one in four Americans aged 65 and older falls every year, it also maintains that “falling is not an inevitable part of aging.” A program, such as the one that starts April 4, can be an important first step on the journey to overcoming the fear of and decreasing the chance of falling.

Pre-registration is required at the senior center or by calling 508-393-5035.