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Better Balance for a Better Future

Carol Rock, a senior citizen and a resident of the small rural town of Windsor, N.Y., had trouble with her balance and struggled with risk of falling. Elderly residents of Broome County had one of the highest rates of falls in New York State. NYSHealth awarded Broome County a grant to support the State’s Prevention Agenda goals, which designated falls prevention as the highest priority for the county.

An NYSHealth grant to Broome County Health Department supported the Better Balance for Broome Fall Prevention Project, a program that includes several interventions for older adults to identify those at risk for falling, refer them to appropriate programs, and build their strength to help them maintain their independence and quality of life. 

Through her senior volunteering program, Carol learned about a Tai Chi program offered through Broome County Health Department. She liked the Tai Chi classes so much that she decided to train to become an instructor herself. “Everyone enjoys the classes,” says Carol, who has been teaching Tai Chi class twice a week since 2014. “They feel like they’re receiving a great benefit from it in not only improving their balance, but also for the emotional benefits and relaxation.” The Tai Chi program draws in members of the senior community in Windsor, as well as those who are involved in other exercise programs through the Broome County’s retired seniors program. Carol’s class has 10 members who attend each week. “Teaching these classes has been wonderful because it’s so motivational to exercise in a group,” said Carol. “It just benefits everyone physically and mentally. I’ve seen a lot of people come in that were depressed, and because of the comradery of these classes, they feel better.”

The Better Balance for Broome also incorporated provider training for fall screening at United Health Services Hospitals (UHS). Dr. Frank Floyd, a practicing internal physician at UHS, noted that prior to Better Balance for Broome’s involvement, fall screening for individuals was not commonly performed in the hospital setting. UHS providers now screen all patients over the age of 65, many of whom have benefitted from the program’s classes. “We proactively prescribe the program to prevent falls,” said Dr. Floyd, “in turn helping the health of the community.”

Since the start of the Better Balance for Broome program, the falls rate in Broome County has decreased by 9.4%.