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Steady As You Go – prevents causes of injury

How many times have you heard these words as you trip on a mat or zoom round a corner too fast and lose your balance?
 |  Michelle Dellabarca  | 

Falls are the number one causes of injury, hospitalisation and even death from injury in New Zealand, particularly for the over 65’s.

This is one of the reasons that Aged Concern has developed the Steady as You Go falls prevention programme, in collaboration with Otago University, for older New Zealanders. Steady As You Go© (SAYGo) is Age Concern’s peer-led exercise initiative designed to help older people / kaumātua reduce their likelihood of having a fall.

In Coromandel town, classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Coromandel Gym. Volunteer Peer Leader, Vicky Macrae started leading SAYGO in 2019 after contacting Aged Concern and offering to do home visits. When they heard that she had a background in teaching physical exercise they jumped at her offer but asked her if she could teach this class instead. It started off with small numbers, meeting in a church hall, but as numbers grew, they have moved to the Coromandel Gym which has a dedicated floor space for exercise.

Numbers have increased from five people per session to up to 22 on a good day, when the gym appears to be bursting at the seams. There are a good mix of people, both men and women, ranging in age from 60- to 87-year-old Thelma, who attends most weeks. Vickie loves leading these exercises and plans to continue as long as she can. Her motivation is helping her own husband to stay mobile and active as he has Parkinson’s disease. Staying active with regular exercise can slow the progression of this disease.

She recognises that about one in three older adults falls each year. Falls among older adults are a serious issue, but research has shown that many fall risks can be reduced.

Falls by older people are almost always associated with weakened leg muscles and poor balance.

The SAYGo programme is designed to address these issues and is simple to participate in. Each session is the same, with Vicki presenting the exercises by way of following instructions on a CD. This enables participants to learn the moves by repetition. Vicki is there to correct technique if required. All the movements are designed to increase the strength of leg muscles and to improve balance. She also adds in a few of her own warm-up exercises to improve hand dexterity and help slow the progress of arthritis.

Vicky comments that everyone who attends the classes will say that they have benefitted with increased strength, agility and confidence. Another benefit is that of belonging to a community of people who have become friends. Most days, after class, they go down to a local café for coffee and a chat.

The classes are on Tuesday and Thursday at the Coromandel Gym. The Tuesday group is full most weeks so Vicki would like to encourage new participants to come to the Thursday class. Cost is $2 per session. If you would like further information, you can contact Vicki on 027 417 7077. Unfortunately, classes are not currently available in Whitianga. Vicky says that it is hard to get volunteers to run these courses even though they are very easy to run. If becoming a Volunteer Peer Leader sounds like something you like the sound of you can contact Vicki or your local Age Concern group.