Employee-Created Program for Seniors Wins State Award

Posted: September 19, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nick Walker

A program created by Mason employees has helped dozens of senior citizens prevent injuries and regain their confidence.

The recipient of the 2008 Award for Innovative Prevention Projects from the Virginia Department of Health, “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” is an ongoing community-level intervention program for people 65 and older.

“We use a combination of different types of exercise, including mind, body, focus and attention; breathing; warm-up; some aerobic activity; and muscle conditioning,” says Jennifer Lehman, the fitness coordinator at Mason’s Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, located on the Prince William Campus.

Lehman and fitness instructor Anne Heavner created the program after a request from the Area Agency on Aging, which was looking for a program that would help seniors improve their balance.

“Together we created a manual and trained volunteers to teach classes. I made sure the manual was done, and Anne took the lead in training,” Lehman says.

Classes were held twice weekly for three months. Approximately 60 seniors participated in the program. In addition to the exercise routines, the seniors were given pre- and post-tests to assess strength, balance and confidence.

“We conducted a study to see if ability and attitudes toward balance improved,” Lehman says. “We worked on balancing their whole being – mind/body, spirit, attitude and confidence. The seniors surpassed what they thought they could do, and some ended up teaching as well.”

Currently, “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” is offered only at senior centers in Manassas and Woodbridge. Lehman and Heavner have considered offering it at Mason, but feel the senior centers are currently better suited for this task.

“It’s really been a fantastic program to be involved in,” Lehman says. “Personally, I would love to see our instructors more involved. With our knowledge base at Mason, we could do such a wonderful service for the community.”

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