Seniors take Safe Steps for Life

The Wallingford and Greenwood senior centers are participating in a countywide initiative called Safe Steps for Life. Its purpose is to educate seniors and caregivers on preventing injuries in the home.A Home Safety Council study concluded that falls are the second-leading cause of accidental deaths among people 65 and older in King County. It also said that 17 percent of emergency calls from seniors 65 and older were related to home falls. Two one-day events - one at each of the senior centers - will present information to help seniors take preventative safety measures. University of Washington physical therapy students will give a fall-prevention presentation and conduct balancing testing. An occupational therapy student, also from UW, will answer questions about setting up the home for safety, and a Bartell Drugs pharmacist will talk about medications that can affect the ability to stay balanced and focused. There will also be exercise demonstrations and health assessments. Fire prevention is also on the agenda. The Seattle Fire Department will talk about kitchen safety, fire safety and how to make sure that smoke alarms work. Each year, approximately 1,100 Americans age 65 and older die in a house-fire accident nationally, according to Home Safety Council statistics. SAFETY IN AND OUTMargaret Goodman, a member of the Wallingford Community Senior Center since 2002, said it is not only important to focus on home safety but outside safety as well. Goodman has been injured in two falls. The first accident happened when she slipped outside her home and broke her pelvis and hip. Two years later, she slipped on some ice and broke her ankle. Since then, Goodman, 83, began exercising and regularly visiting the senior center. "I started coming here for exercise, and I've been doing tai chi for a while," she said. Tai chi has not only helped Goodman strengthen her body and develop better balance, it has taught her techniques on how to fall and not hurt herself badly. Goodman decided to sell her car, and now she walks a half-mile from the bus stop to the center. "It's something that I don't enjoy, but I've stuck with it because it's good exercise," she explained. Goodman added that the exercise has also made her feel more active. Goodman lives on her own and has taken every precaution to live safely at home. She has installed rails. The kitchen and bathrooms have grab bars, and she checks her smoke alarm regularly. During her recovery from her fractures, she needed her daughters to help her, but as soon as the doctor gave the OK, she went back to living independently, "and I want to continue to do so," she said. Goodman also sleeps with a nightlight on for safety when she gets up during the night. These precautions help her continue to live independently, she said. PREVENTIONKathleen Byrnes, program coordinator for the Wallingford center, said that this program isn't only for people who have fallen or have had accidents, but it can also be a preventative measure for many others. "We are trying to reach people who haven't necessarily fallen before [to] get people educated," Byrnes said. "If you address these issues and take fairly simple precautions, then it does improve your quality of life a great deal.... "I am getting old now," she added. "I have to put [in] handrails, but this is going to allow me to live a whole, full, rich and wonderful life...into my 80s and 90s.""I think there is a lot that caregivers can learn," said Cecily Kaplan, director of the Greenwood Senior Center. "If you are a caregiver and you have an elder in the home or your parents will be moving in, there are things you should know in how to prepare your home."Goodman said she feels more knowledgeable and healthier now than when she was younger. "I was in worse shape in my 70s, when I wasn't aware of any of these things, and that makes a difference," she said. WORKSHOP INFORMATIONTwo Safe Steps for Life workshops are scheduled. One will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Wallingford Community Senior Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Suite 100. The other will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 24, at the Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N. 85th St.For more information call the Wallingford Senior Center at 461-1346, or the Greenwood Senior Center at 297-0875.[[In-content Ad]]