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Vanguard: News from the College of Human Environmental Sciences

2018 ACL Grant Will Help Missourians Stay Strong and Healthy

As we get older, we tend to slow down and become less active. Every day activities can become harder to do. The fear of falling increases. Who hasn’t seen the ubiquitous commercial, "I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!" Staying strong and active can help lengthen lifespan and create greater physical stability, as well as enhance mental and emotional well-being.  One out of four older adults fall each year and in 2014, 2.8 million older adults were treated in emergency departments for falls injuries. 

A team of faculty, students and staff headed by Dr. Stephen D. Ball, Professor and State Extension Specialist, Susan Mills-Gray, Extension Professor and State Nutrition/Health Specialist, and Kelsey Weitzel, Extension Associate in the University of Missouri Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology (NEP), aims to help older adults build muscle, increase bone density and prevent frailty and osteoporosis through two MU Extension programs -- Stay Strong, Stay Healthy and a Matter of Balance.  

Bea Smith, Dean Emerita of the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, was intrigued with the program. After double knee surgery and a period of recovery, she enrolled in Level 1. She says, "I have the highest praise for the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program. With this program, I’m willingly climbing the mountain. The instructor clearly follows tightly prescribed guidelines and they are indeed a relatively painless progression.  I’ll cheerfully be an advocate for SSSH any time. I totally believe in it." 

The Administration for Community Living (ACL), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded the College of Human Environmental Sciences cohort from NEP a Falls Prevention grant of $511,828 in partnership with Oasis Lifelong Adventure.  Oasis is a pioneer in healthy aging located in 23 states and 40 cities across the country, including Kirksville and St. Louis, Mo. The ACL was created around the fundamental principle that older adults and people with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities.  The Falls Prevention grantees across the nation will reach approximately 25,000 older adults with evidence-based programs to reduce the risk of falling and safeguard their independence. Grantees are tasked with delivering these programs while also increasing their sustainability beyond the life of the grant. Fall prevention programs in Missouri (MU EXT in partnership with OASIS) will reach 6,000 older adults over a 3 year period and the team will collaborate to develop sustainable program delivery opportunities for years to come.

Steve Ball, Professor

Susan Mills-Gray, Extension Professor

Kelsey Weitzel, Nutrition & Exercise Physiology Associate

Doris Littrell, retired extension professional, discovered SSSH through former extension colleagues. She enrolled in order to gain strength and better balance. She says, "There are several benefits for me from stretching, doing the exercises and interacting with others. This is a great opportunity at a reasonable price for seniors and others to get strengthening and stretching with direction in a group."

An 8-week program, SSSH is designed to improve the health of Missourians by increasing the number of older and sedentary, middle-aged adults who have access to a safe, effective and research-based physical activity program designed to meet their needs to prevent frailty, injury and disease. The hour-long course is held twice a week and is led by trained instructors. Bolstered by documented benefits, SSSH has reached more than 6,000 Missourians over the last 10 years to become one of the most successful and long lasting outreach programs in the State. An advanced level of the class debuted in 2009, reaching hundreds more. A number of other states throughout the country are adopting the program, including North Carolina, Nevada, Tennessee and Kansas.

The Matter of Balance is an award winning program designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase the activity levels of older adults who have concerns about falls. MU Extension specialists teach the course, which consists of eight, two-hour sessions. Participants learn fall prevention strategies, exercises to improve their balance and increase their activity levels, develop and follow a personal fall prevention plan, and make or support changes in their daily lives that can reduce their fear of falling. After the course, 97% or more report feeling more comfortable increasing activity, plan to continue exercising, and say they are more comfortable talking about fear of falling.

Both programs have trained instructors throughout Missouri. Sydney White is Doris Littrell’s current instructor. She joined the team as an undergraduate at MU two years ago and is now a graduate assistant with MU Extension. She says, "This program truly embodies the mission of the University of Missouri, and has allowed me and many other student volunteers to directly apply knowledge from the classroom to help members of the community to stay strong and healthy. Session-after-session, I’m overwhelmed with positive feedback from new and returning participants with stories about keeping up with their children on hikes to being able to lift things at the grocery store or their grandchildren."

Courses are held in familiar locations, such as libraries, extension offices, senior centers or churches and take place at various times throughout the year. They are also recognized by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Division of Family & Consumer Sciences as extension developed and/or delivered programs that contribute to the quality of life of older Americans in Missouri. Request SSSH in your area  |  Request MOB in your area

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy group located in Franklin County Missouri with instructor Mary Schroepfer who is a nutrition and health education specialist recently retired.

SSSH held in Independence, MO with instructor Denise Sullivan, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in the Urban West Region.