One in three adults over the age of 65 unintentionally fall each year. These falls are the leading cause of accidental injury deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries, and hospital admissions for trauma among Idahoans in this age range. Many who fall develop a fear of falling, which may lead them to limit their activities, which in turn increases their risk of falling (CDC, 2009). To combat this cycle Boise State University and College of Southern Idaho professors developed the Fit and Fall Proof™ program (FFP™) in 2004. The classes in the FFP™ program incorporate exercises to strengthen weak muscles and improve flexibility in order to decrease older adults’ risk of falling. The Idaho Physical Activity and Nutrition Program (IPAN), and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare requested that Boise State’s Center for the Study of Aging assess the successfulness of the FFP™ program.
A survey, designed by the researchers, was used to gather information from participants in the FFP™ program from March-May 2011. A total of 895 surveys were completed by FFP™ program participants with responses received from all seven of the Idaho public health districts. The average age of respondents was 77 (range 39-102) and the majority, 82% (n = 732), reported participation in the FFP™ program for more than three months. Ninety percent, (n = 798), had one or more chronic conditions, with hypertension and arthritis/rheumatic disease being the most commonly reported.
Differences between before and after participation confidence levels related to maintaining balance, going up and down stairs, reaching for something, and taking a bath or shower were found to be statistically significant (p=.001). In addition, over 50% of respondents reported increased stability, energy, and confidence in preventing a fall and 75% reported experiencing stronger social connections as a result of participating in the FFP™ program. Finally, over 90% of the respondents indicated they would recommend the program to a friend or acquaintance.
The findings from this study reveal high levels of satisfaction and evidence that participation had a positive impact on maintaining balance, preventing falls, increasing energy, and enhancing social connections. These findings are particularly important as Idaho strives to enhance community-based environments that promote physical activity, injury prevention, and “aging in place.”
For more information about the Fit and Fall ProofTM program, please contact: Katie Lamansky: LamanskK@dhw.idaho.gov or the Idaho Careline: 2-1-1.