“We feel called to improve the health of the community by helping improve their balance,” said Steve Vanderkamp, clinic director at Calvin College Rehabilitation Services. “In doing so, we hope individuals will be more inclined to get back into their communities, spend time with family, and attend church activities.”
Calvin College Rehabilitation Services, in partnership with the United Methodist Church and the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, is providing balance screenings and classes to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls for people older than 60.
“We are trying to reach individuals from all types of settings,” Vanderkamp said. “We are doing everything we can to make this class very accessible.”
Part of this includes offering the classes at no cost to the community thanks to a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
Throughout the class—taught in two-hour sessions over eight weeks—participants hear from health professionals on topics related to balance, such as cognitive changes, loss of hearing, medication, and anxiety.
“These classes help keep my mind alert and help me get around better,” said Edna Williams, a 74-year-old retired social worker.
Last winter, Williams had a major fall. Though she did not sustain any permanent injuries, she admitted that the incident made her less confident.
“After the fall, I felt like I couldn’t do the things that came easily to me before,” she said. “But after six weeks in this class, I’m much more confident in my walking, standing, and going up stairs. I may not be able to do everything I used to, but I am very confident in what I can do.”
Williams said the class has made her more excited to get back out into her community, something she has always enjoyed doing. “I am now much more aware of myself and the people around me.”
As the second year of offering this class comes to a close, preliminary results are very encouraging, Vanderkamp said. In surveys sent 10 weeks and then six months after the class, most participants had shown improvements in their fall risk as well as in their confidence levels.
With the Michigan Health Endowment Fund’s two-year grant period coming to an end, Vanderkamp and others hope to continue the class by seeking support from other local partners.
If you are interested in attending a fall-prevention class or in scheduling a free health assessment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.