BISMARCK-Four graduate students in the University of Mary's Doctor of Physical Therapy program are working with the North Dakota Department of Health, Injury Prevention and Control Division to bring Stepping On - a national program for adults 60 years and over to help prevent falls - to Bismarck. Caleb Anderson, Perham, MN; Samantha Christensen, Sheridan, WY; Josh Henderson, Frenchtown, MT; and Justin Peters, Milbank, SD, will join with a vision specialist, pharmacist, community safety expert, and the Bismarck Senior Center staff to present a series of seven community-based, small-group workshops Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., from Oct. 11 to Nov. 29, at the Bismarck Senior Center.
Falls are the leading cause of injury or death for older Americans, threatening seniors' safety and independence and generating enormous economic and personal costs. From 2007 to 2011, there were 408 fall-related deaths to North Dakotans age 55 years and older. "Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook, but easy to fix," explains Diana Read, Injury/Violence Program director for the North Dakota Department of Health. "By educating about this issue and giving people the information they need to prevent falls in the home, we are hoping to reduce the number of injuries related to falls, therefore keeping seniors in their homes and independent longer in life. I am extremely happy to have the students as partners in this project. I have found them very interested, helpful, creative and willing to do whatever needs to be done. They are a shining example of the young people that we will be needing in the future. They will keep me well as I age."
The seven Stepping On sessions, which build on each other, will include open dialog about fall experiences; training in identifying fall risk hazards and problem-solving strategies; discussions of vision, footwear, community safety, weather, medications, sleep, and bone health, as well as fun balance and strength training. The U-Mary students are involved in aspects ranging from publicity to the coordination of guest speakers to working with participants on strengthening and balancing exercises.
"This experience provides students the opportunity to practice skills learned in the academic setting while providing a needed service to the community," says Dr. Mary Dockter, U-Mary Physical Therapy Department chair. "Students are also afforded the opportunity to practice in an interdisciplinary model which is a major focus of health care practice."
Created in Australia and adapted in the United States by Wisconsin Institute for the Aging, the evidence-based program has been offered in communities throughout the United States. Through a grant from the Department of Human Services, Division of Aging and Adult Services, The North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Injury Prevention and Control, trained 20 community leaders in March of 2012. They have been doing the Stepping On Workshops across the state, including a well-received previous program in Bismarck, which prompted the fall sessions. Workshops also have been held or are planned to be held in Beulah, Casselton, Fargo, Grand Forks, Hazen, New Town and Northwood, ND.
For additional information about the Bismarck Stepping On workshops, call Diana Read at (701) 328-4537.