‘Matter of Balance’

Course to be held at Negaunee Senior Center aims to improve seniors’ strength, confidence, safety

Seniors participate in a course that builds strength and balance at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Starting Jan. 14, the Negaunee Senior Center will offer ‘A Matter of Balance,’ an eight-week course that aims to help local seniors improve their balance and safety through exercises, discussions and assignments on a number of topics. Interested parties can register for the course by calling the center at 906-475-6266, organizers said. (U.S. Air Force photos/Ilka Cole)

MARQUETTE — For those who are looking to improve their balance in the new year, the Negaunee Senior Center will be offering a class starting Jan. 14 that aims to help older adults gain the tools, strength, and confidence to do so safely, organizers said.

“The ‘Matter of Balance’ class is something that we really feel is an important thing to offer,” said Negaunee Senior Center Director Kristy Basolo-Malmsten. “There are a handful of instructors throughout Marquette County and two of my staff got certified to teach this class.”

The class, which is a nationally recognized program developed by the Roybal Center at Boston University, will be offered from 1 to 3 p.m. each Monday and Wednesday for eight weeks at the Negaunee Senior Center starting Jan. 14.

It uses an evidence-based curriculum to improve attendees’ balance, aiming to reduce the risk of falls and resulting injuries, Basolo-Malmsten said.

“They were trying to address the high rate of fall injuries in older adults,” she said. “And they did all kinds of research and put together this curriculum that is a combination of discussion, education and exercise.”

An instructor helps a participant with a triceps extension during a session of an eight-week program that aims to increase attendees’ safety by improving strength and balance. (U.S. Air Force photos/Ilka Cole)

The course addresses the vicious cycle surrounding the fear of falling — a fear of falling may limit a person’s desire to move, go outside and exercise — and in turn, the resulting lack of physical activity can make a person more likely to suffer a fall, she said.

“We talk a lot about fear of falling too and how that affects your movements and your tendencies and attitudes about doing things,” she said.

It’s important to recognize if a fear of falling is limiting your physical activity, she said, noting “if you stop using some of those muscles, if you stop doing some of those movements, they become difficult — and sometimes even dangerous.”

To reduce the risk of falls, the class teaches attendees simple exercises to build strength and balance while facilitating discussions surrounding the aging process, safety in the home and physical activity, Basolo-Malmsten said.

“They’ve structured the class to empower people to build strength at any age,” she said.

A group poses at a recent instructor training and certification in Escanaba, with master tai chi trainer Cathi Knauf. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Senior Center)

Basolo-Malmsten encourages people of all abilities to attend the course, as exercises in the program can be done standing or sitting and the program can be tailored for the use of walkers, canes, or other adaptive devices.

“You can move more and build muscle no matter what age or physical ability,” she said.

Many things are covered in the program, Basolo-Malmsten said, noting that it’s much more than an exercise class, as each two-hour session features an array of different information and learning opportunities for attendees.

“While there are exercises involved, that is a small portion of each class — and we also do things like a home assessment worksheet where they actually take the homework home with them and identify tripping hazards (in their homes),” she said.

Furthermore, Basolo-Malmsten emphasized that attendees have a chance to move around, engage in discussions with each other and enjoy one another’s company during the class, she said.

A group participates in a tai chi instructor skill builder at the Negaunee Senior Center. A beginner’s tai chi course will be offered at the center starting in February, following the close of the eight-week long ‘A Matter of Balance’ course, which is offered by the Negaunee Senior Center starting Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of the Negaunee Senior Center)

“The classes are really nice, they’re kept to a smaller amount for ‘A Matter of Balance,'” She said. “We can have discussions … we do some group exercises, we do teaching, we do worksheets, we do the exercises, we have a snack together. It’s all kinds of things, it’s not just sitting in a class for two hours, there’s a lot of changes of pace to keep people interested.”

Organizers hope the class can provide its attendees with long-lasting knowledge that will keep them safe and healthy for years to come, they said.

“People are always great when they’re in the class and they seem to really appreciate the class, the hope is that we will give them tools that they will continue to use after the class is over,” she said.

Furthermore, a beginners’ Tai Chi class will be starting at the Negaunee Senior Center shortly after the “A Matter of Balance” course comes to a close, she said, noting it will give course attendees a good place to maintain and remember what they learned in the course.

“What we see a lot is people transition from ‘A Matter Of Balance’ into Tai Chi, it’s a nice segue,” she said.

An aerobics class is also offered this winter, she said, noting that drop-in aerobics, which is free of charge and can be done standing or seated, is held at 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Those who are interested in signing up for ‘A Matter of Balance’ can call the senior center at 906-475-6266 to register. Organizers said participants must be able to attend the first class session and should be able to attend at least six of eight classes.

For more information on the programs or to view a calendar of upcoming events at the Negaunee Senior Center, visit http://cityofnegaunee.com/residents/senior-citizens-center/ or call 906-475-6266.