STAND UP! to falling: CLSC program helps seniors gain balance skills, along with confidence

Participants at the New Hope Seniors Centre in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce practice coordination skills as part of the STAND UP! program
Participants at the New Hope Seniors Centre in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce practice coordination skills as part of the STAND UP! program

Winter is at our doorstep, and so are the snowy and icy conditions that increase the risk of falling. For seniors who have trouble with balance and mobility, harsh weather can be a worry.

That’s where the STAND UP! program steps in. Developed by researchers and specialists at the Directorate of Public Health (DRSP) in 2003 and implemented province-wide, the free program aims to prevent falls among autonomous seniors (65 years and over) who live at home. Through physical activity, participants increase their balance, leg muscles and coordination skills, and learn how to practice safe habits and behaviours.

The 12-week program is offered at CLSC René-Cassin, CLSC Métro, CLSC Côte-des-Neiges, CLSC Park Extension, and New Hope Seniors Centre (through CLSC Benny Farm).

Groups of up to 15 participants gather twice a week to perform activities such as stretching, catching and balancing. It’s a great way “to get out of the house”, says Adolfo Di Benedetto, a CIUSSS patient partner and program member at New Hope Seniors Centre.

Courses are led by kinesiologists Nathalie Léveillé and Philippe Briand from our CIUSSS. Mr. Briand says the program uses methods to try to improve balance and offer “a sense of confidence about one’s physical abilities.”

The program, which is offered three times a year, is ideal for anyone who is recovering from a fall or would like to reduce the risk of falling. For Carol Ann Macdonald, a participant who had knee surgery, “the program is very helpful and practical in terms of being able to be more mobile, especially during the winter months.”
Others say STAND UP! encourages them to face their fear of falling. Such is the case for Marion Wagschal, who appreciates learning about “all these physical things about balance and how to get stronger.”

Ms. Wagschal says the program also offers encouragement to get out and meet others.

“When you are afraid of falling, you can get isolated and you don’t want to go out,” she said during a recent session at the New Hope Seniors Centre. “We have fun and connect with people.”  

While the STAND UP! program can’t be taken twice, organizers say it’s important for the elderly to stay mobile. That’s why places such as the New Hope Seniors Centre let people join activities at the Centre for a nominal fee. “It’s important that seniors have a place to go in the community following the program,” says Ms. Léveillé. One of those who plans to stay active after STAND UP! is Francine Bilodeau. She admits it was difficult to accept aging, but she credits her increased confidence to the program.

“It feels good to move around,” Ms. Bilodeau says, “and I have to continue to do so.”