Public libraries can effectively keep pace with the needs of older adults by providing meaningful programs and services.
Benay Gunby, 74, regularly walks her dogs in wooded areas. But it took a fall directly in front of her house to make her aware of the risk of injury. She recently attended a fall prevention class at the East Cobb Library.
“I wanted to build confidence in preventing damaging falls,” said Gunby. “At the class, I learned points of balance and to expect the unexpected.”
The class Gunby attended was led by Dr. David Taylor, director of clinical education at Mercer University. He shared that falls are both common – one in four seniors will fall each year – and preventable. He described basic steps for participants to reduce their risks such as eliminating clutter on floors, installing a shower grab bar and understanding potential side effects from medication.
“Our falls prevention programming shows how libraries are effective in intervening to address significant community issues,” said Helen Poyer, director of Cobb County Public Library System. “These classes are about increasing knowledge and confidence and improving quality of life. The library is a place for lifelong learning; we can help you learn what you need, when you need it.”
The group then practiced exercises to give them strength and balance, such as calf raises while holding on to a chair, sitting and standing and lifting a leg to their side.
“Seniors who limit activities to avoid falls are more likely to suffer a serious injury and become socially isolated due to fear of falling,” said East Cobb Branch Manager Ansie Krige. ”Fall prevention classes build confidence. I love that these participants can meet all their exercise and fall prevention needs and then get a great book to read.”
East Cobb Library launched their Falls Prevention Awareness Initiative in 2015 to assist seniors in reducing their risk of serious falls in a county where about 10,000 residents visit the emergency room annually due to such injuries. Not only are falls a threat to independent living, they also are costly. According to the CDC, national direct medical costs due to falls are $50 billion annually.
The program is very popular with local seniors, in part because the East Cobb Library is located in a shopping center, making it a convenient place to visit when they buy groceries and other goods nearby.
Cobb libraries have grown the initiative, which is centered around Falls Prevention Awareness Day observed nationally on the first day of the fall season, to include health screenings, safety checks and a fall prevention awareness open house. Cobb County Libraries’ year-round senior class offerings also include tai chi, yoga, chair yoga and hula hoop.
Their evidence-based programming includes partnerships with Cobb Senior Services, Georgia Department of Public Health, UGA Cobb Extension, WellStar Health System, Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre, Shepherd Center and Emory University Center for Health in Aging.
To learn more about the Falls Prevention Awareness Initiative, please visit www.cobbcat.org/falls-prevention.