DUBOIS – Some area senior citizens are literally getting a leg up on fall prevention and staying safe and healthy thanks to students in the Penn State DuBois Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program.
Exercises, including leg lifts, squats, curls and more are part of the Move Strong program that the OTA students have brought to both Village View Residential Living and DuBois Village Personal Care, parts of the DuBois Continuum of Care Community.
Students and OTA faculty instruct residents in Move Strong, a national fall prevention and strengthening program for senior citizens. The 10-week program focuses on keeping seniors safe while moving about their homes or navigating any location they may visit.
The program offers exercises that improve strength and balance, while also providing practical tips for carful movement. The program focuses on the four key areas of strength, balance, flexibility and posture.
“Fall risk is a concern for our residents, so we always encourage residents to participate in any program that can help prevent falls,” said DuBois Village Marketing Coordinator Carolyn Skaggs. “The students do work very well with our residents, and the residents look forward to them coming back. The students are just very, very good with them.”
The Move Strong program does provide prevention for a leading cause of injury among senior citizens, explained Penn State DuBois senior instructor in the OTA program, LuAnn Demi. She said, “A lot of falls take place because of weakness in the body, not just because of tripping over something.”
Student Dereck Seeley of Mansfield said, “We focus on getting them stronger with those key areas of strength, balance, flexibility and posture. It gives them more confidence throughout their day as they move through their activities and can more easily walk around without fear of falling.”
In providing this instruction to seniors, the Penn State DuBois students are getting some of their greatest opportunities for hands-on learning.
“We get experience; it lets us see what it’s like to work in a healthcare facility and how to perform exercises and lead groups,” said student Jen Marks of Falls Creek. “What we are learning in the classroom, we’re applying here and putting it to good use.”
Classmate Katie Armagost of Penfield agreed, noting that the interaction with real patients helps to build the communication skills they’ll need for a career in occupational therapy.
She said, “It helps to learn how to build a rapport with people. We can do that here, get to know them; that’s really important in any healthcare setting. It’s important to see them as people, not a diagnosis.”