Matter of Balance class at Heritage Village in Southbury
“Jane” was once a master gardener.
But outside her window, fabulous blooms had become an area choked with weeds. As she aged, weight gain and a more sedentary routine kept her inside, and the situation had chipped away at her self-esteem. Fear, in part, had held her back.
Eight weeks of classes through Pomperaug District Department of Health’s (PDDH) Matter of Balance program changed all that. After the classes, while she could not do everything that she used to, she went back to gardening using containers and now invites houseguests to view her attractive flowers.
Said Robin Lucas, grants manager and trainer for the program,“The group helped her to turn her thinking around.”
According to Lucas, falling is the most common reason that older people end up hospitalized, and many don’t realize that they are becoming isolated and staying home due to a fear of falling. That fear can pose a barrier to activities as simple as gardening.
Changing simple behaviors, setting achievable goals and exercising in groups empower participants to take charge of their own health and manage their chronic conditions. These are the keys to PDDH’s successful diabetes control, arthritis management and fall-prevention classes. A circle of supportive peers sharing tips and checking on progress adds motivation and accountability.
Funding by Connecticut Community Foundation for the last six years has allowed hundreds of older adults in Woodbury, Oxford and at Heritage Village retirement community in Southbury to take part in the free classes “with great success” said Neal Lustig, director of health at PDDH. Health benefits have included weight loss, better pain and diabetes control and more active self-management of health conditions.
Continuing funding by the Foundation is now allowing PDDH to train coaches in Naugatuck, Woodbury, Oxford, Waterbury, Cheshire, New Milford, Wolcott and Roxbury to run fall-prevention programs for older people in those towns.
Of the value of these prevention efforts, Lustig said, “If you help people manage their disease before it gets to a serious state, you’ve improved their outcomes and positively affected their quality of life, reduced costs on the health care system and helped them stay at home.”