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Local program helping older adults is one of six honored nationally

• The award-winning program
• What participants say
Program can be implemented nationwide
Already offered throughout Maine
Master training information
• For more information

The Healthcare and Aging Network (HAN) of the American Society on Aging (ASA), in collaboration with Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative, recently honored four local organizations with an ASA Healthcare and Aging Network Award.  The collaborative of MaineHealth's Partnership for Healthy Aging (PFHA), Southern Maine Agency on Aging  (SMAA), Maine Medical Center Division of Geriatrics , and University of Southern Maine School of Social Work was chosen as one of six national recipients for demonstrating high-quality programs that enhance the quality of life for older adults.

The collaborative was honored for translating A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls, a research-based program for fear of falling which originally used health care professionals as leaders, into a program led by community volunteers: A Matter of Balance - A Volunteer Lay Leader Model .

(L to R) Talbott C. Smith, Director, Science and Medical Alliances, Pfizer Inc.; Tara Healy, Ph.D., LCSW, University of Southern Maine School of Social Work; Elaine McMahon, Wellness Program Manager, MaineHealth's Partnership for Healthy Aging; Peggy Haynes, Director, MaineHealth's Partnership for Healthy Aging; Gloria Cavanaugh, President and CEO, American Society on Aging; Forest Harper, Vice President, Community Health Advocacy, Pfizer Inc.


The award-winning program:

A Matter of Balance/Volunteer Lay Leader Model focuses on practical coping strategies to reduce fear of falling and diminish the risk of falling. Participants learn about the importance of exercise in preventing falls; practice exercises to improve strength, coordination and balance; conduct a home safety evaluation; and learn to get up and down safely. The program includes eight classes, each lasting two hours, presented over a four-week period by trained facilitators using a detailed training manual and two instructional videos. 

A Matter of Balance/Volunteer Lay Leader Model has been successful in reducing the fear of falling by increasing participants' confidence that they can take action to help reduce the risk of falling, and better manage actual falls if they occur. In addition, participants indicate their concerns about falling are interfering less with their social activity and they report that they have increased their exercise levels.  It is striking to note that participants in the current study reported fewer falls during the six-month period after taking A Matter of Balance than in the three-month period before taking the class.  Even at twelve months after taking the class, participants are reporting significant improvement in falls management and in exercise. 

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What participants say:

"A Matter of Balance was most helpful - it made me more aware of what can be done to assure safety at home.  The class provided a definite time each week to meet and discuss concerns with others. I wish we had even more exercise activities at each class. Great to share and learn!"

"It has benefited all of us in that we feel stronger and in more control of our bodies. We would never have started this if it wasn't for taking A Matter of Balance, so I believe it has changed some people's lives."

"I'm already noticing a difference in my physical being. I'm sure I'm a little more mobile than I had been and plan to continue these exercises. Hopefully, I'll be jumping over the moon - soon!"

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Program can be implemented nationwide

John Wren, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management, Administration on Aging (AoA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stated "The Administration on Aging is very pleased that the American Society on Aging has awarded a 2006 Healthcare and Aging Award to the partnership in Maine that is developing and demonstrating A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls. We are convinced that this excellent program is a national model that can be implemented nationwide to effectively lower the risk of falls for older Americans."  This effort is funded by the U. S. Administration on Aging. 

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Already offered throughout Maine

In addition to offering the program locally, the partnership has disseminated it across Maine.  To date, 31 Master Trainers have been trained and certified, 114 volunteer coaches have been trained, and 38 classes have been held with 588 participants. Master Trainer sites include:  Eastern Agency on Aging, Aroostook Agency on Aging, SeniorsPlus (Western AAA), and Senior Spectrum (Central AAA), MaineGeneral Health, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, Healthy Oxford Hills (Western Maine Healthcare), Sanford-Springvale YMCA, St. John Valley Partnership, Southern Maine Medical Center, St. Andrews Healthcare, Southern Maine Agency on Aging, Sebasticook Valley Hospital, and Greater Rumford Community Center.

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Master Training information

MaineHealth's Partnership for Healthy Aging will hold a two-day training session for people interested in offering A Matter of Balance to their communities.  This Matter of Balance Volunteer Lay Leader Model Master Training Session is scheduled for June 7 and 8, 2006, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Freeport.  Registration fee is $325 and includes materials, breakfast, lunch and refreshments.  Registration deadline is May 19.

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For more information:  Michelle D. Nevers, Partnership for Healthy Aging, 775-109

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