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Partnership for Healthy Aging

A Matter of Balance class participants and coaches learn valuable skills


Joanie Grondin (left) and Amy McLaughlin, nursing students at the University of Southern Maine and A Matter of Balance Coaches, learned valuable skills from their experience teaching a Matter of Balance class.





                                                                            Next: "Thirty minutes well spent" 


Joanie Grondin and Amy McLaughlin, senior nursing students at the University of Southern Maine, took on a challenge over the summer that left them richer and wiser. As part of a community partnership course, they were trained as A Matter of Balance (MOB) Coaches through Southern Maine Agency on Aging (SMAA). Once trained, they teamed up to lead a MOB class for twelve residents at Harbor Terrace, a senior housing unit in Portland.  This offered Amy and Joanie the opportunity to interact with the residents, learn more about the health needs of older adults and promote wellness. Their team also included two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, Debbie and Julia. They were enlisted to support Joanie in leading the class, since Joanie is deaf. Anne Murray, their Master Trainer, mentored them as they taught the class. Their professor, Linda Samia, guided them throughout their community partnership experience. What a team!   

Interpreters Debbie and Julia were prepared for each class. They read the MOB Coach Handbook to become familiar and well-versed with the material presented each week. They were able to relay Joanie’s conversation fluently and accurately to the class participants.

The participants were eager, committed, and really wanted to address their concerns about falling. They shared their stories easily with Amy and Joanie. 
“I found that many of the participants didn’t think they were capable of exercising for one reason or another,” said Amy.  After completing the class, she said, “I noticed a huge revelation for many of the participants. They’ve not only learned the tools and techniques to manage their concerns about falling, but they have thrived within the social atmosphere and began making exercise a regular habit.”

One gentleman really wanted to go to his grandson’s football game without worry, so the group helped him work through his fears and strategize a way to negotiate the bleachers. They were very enthusiastic. 

Joanie and Amy learned the value of team work. They also learned how to facilitate a group, manage their time, and balance a busy family and school schedule – skills they will use throughout their lives. Joanie has gained a valuable understanding of the residents and their challenges. She has more confidence in herself and feels she will be a better nurse from this experience.

“My class has been wonderful and inspiring through their own stories at Harbor Terrace. It’s been a pleasure to work with them as well as the supportive staff from SMAA,” said Joanie. “It was unique to teach a class using ASL but it worked out quite well. The participants were very accepting and gracious throughout the process.” 

Both Joanie and Amy witnessed a change in the residents that will have an impact on their nursing careers.  They came away from this experience with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the older adults they will meet in their practices.

 Next:  "Thirty minutes well spent" 

A Matter of Balance is an award-winning program designed to manage falls and increase activity levels. The program consists of eight 2-hour sessions. Participants learn to set realistic goals to increase activity, change their environment to reduce fall risk factors, and learn simple exercises to increase strength and balance.


110 Free Street | Portland, Maine 04101 | (207) 661-7001