The start of fall doesn’t just mean the return of pumpkin spice and cooler temperatures. The National Council on Aging has named September Fall Prevention Awareness Month, and the Valley Shore YMCA is keeping the theme going through its free Move for Better Balance program, a class for seniors that meets twice a week for 12 weeks starting in October, and its Senior Resources Healthy Living Expo on Thursday, Oct. 5.
“Many seniors report struggling with balance, so this is a really important program because falls are the gateways to nursing homes,” said Chris Pallatto, executive director of the Valley Shore YMCA. “It helps seniors maintain balance and be thoughtful about their movements.”
The program, offered in conjunction with the Department of Aging Senior Resources, is based on tai ji quon, a derivative of tai chi, as well as discussion on activities that lead to falls and fall prevention. It meets twice a week and each week progressively builds on the week before. Pallatto noted that YMCA members filled all of last year’s sessions, but the upcoming sessions will also be open to the public. The class is free, but donations are accepted.
“Our hope is to serve even more people from the community,” said Pallatto. “We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback and have seen measure improvement in people’s balance. It’s really working.”
Those curious about the Move for Better Balance program can see it in action on Oct. 5. at the Senior Resources Healthy Living Expo. The event will be held at the Y, 201 Spencer Plain Rodd, Westbrook, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for seniors and caregivers with the Move for Better Balance demonstration at noon.
There will be about 40 vendors at the expo presenting information on estate planning, travel, and activities, as well as resources for seniors and health screenings. Visitors can tour the YMCA and preview the classes that are offered for seniors.
“We’ve really been expanding what we do for seniors over past year,” said Pallatto. “Where we’re located we have the oldest demographic in the state and across the state, seniors are the fastest growing demographic, so we are trying to pay attention to what the needs are of our new seniors.”
The Valley Shore YMCA offers a senior membership rate of $43 a month. It also participates in Silver Sneakers, a Medicare-funded programs that allows free access to the Y, its classes, and amenities.
For seniors, the YMCA offers a variety of classes, including group exercise, chair-based programs, and a wide range of aquatic classes. One of the newest programs offered for seniors is pickleball from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is free for members and $3 for drop-in players.
“It’s real tennis on a smaller court at a slower pace—it’s for active seniors who want to play tennis, but need an abbreviated game,” said Pallatto. “It’s very popular. We were surprised at how quickly it has grown.”
The YMCA is also a source of information for seniors, offering a senior lecture series on different topics as well as groups and classes for coping with diseases and their effects. Hope Is Power is a free 12-week program for cancer survivors and Delay the Disease is an ongoing group for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Pallatto is happy to be able to offer even more classes and programs to seniors and hopes to draw in even more members of the community with the upcoming classes and events. He noted that while the Y is not currently a scheduled stop on Nine-Town Transit, the buses can be scheduled to stop there. He has also enjoyed seeing the benefits of these programs and classes firsthand as the offerings have grown.
“People who are involved with the Y talk a lot about the classes they take, but what they always talk about is their friends,” said Pallatto. “Socialization is so important for seniors. They come to the Y, which is good physically for bodies and good emotionally because they can make friends and be connected.”
For information, visit vsymca.org or call 860-399-9622.