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Volunteers sought for senior safety program

In Pennsylvania, 1,362 older adults aged 65 or older died from fall-related injuries in 2013, according to the National Council on Aging.

Within the last 10 years, 735 home/play deaths, a number of which were slips and falls involving the older population, were reported by the York County Coroner's Office. There were 96 home/play deaths in 2016 — the highest number within that 10-year period.

The York County Area Agency on Aging hopes to change this with its "A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls" program.

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Eight two-hour sessions provide group discussion, videos and light exercise for participants to help them reduce the fear of falling, become more active, prevent the likelihood of falling and protect themselves if they do, a news release states.

The program is not new for the agency, but Ross Stanko, director of operations and outreach, said it's been expanding, leading to a need to train new coaches to offer the program to area seniors.

Originally developed by MaineHealth, it's recognized as a national evidence-based program by Pennsylvania's department of health, he said.

It's a "lay leader" program, Stanko said, meaning anyone can volunteer to be trained as a coach, provided they can lead light to moderate exercise. 

Activities include setting realistic goals for increased activity for seniors and assessing living environments of their fall risks, he said. It will be offered throughout the community where space is available and will be free to eligible participants.

Stanko said there's absolutely a need in the community to help decrease the risk of falls.

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"Falls are a huge concern," he said, adding that they lead to more severe complications.

One in four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year, and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall, according to the National Council on Aging.

"Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans," the council states.

Stanko said the state has one of the fastest growing aging populations.

Falls from adults 65 and older accounted for $3.7 billion of the $9.1 billion in total hospital charges in the state in 2013, according to the council.

But the National Council for Aging also reported that lifestyle changes for older adults could help combat the issue.

Volunteers with "good communication and interpersonal skills, enthusiasm and dependability" are encouraged to apply to lead the "A Matter of Balance" program.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Megan Craley at 717-771-9610 ext. 1017 or email mmcraley@yorkcountypa.gov by Monday, Jan. 15.