November is Falls Prevention Month. Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults within the Prairie Mountain Health region. One in three seniors over the age of 65 fall each year. With this in mind, the Steppin’ Up with Confidence program was created!
Steppin’ Up with Confidence was developed by ALCOA (now Active Aging in Manitoba) in partnership with the Manitoba Fitness Council and was designed to increase participants’ activity levels and strength to reduce the risk of fall-related injuries. The Health Promotion team within Prairie Mountain Health partnered with ALCOA in 2015 with the support of Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living (MHSAL) to bring the program to PMH. Over the years that followed, the program became widespread throughout the Prairie Mountain Health Region. The volunteer, peer-led program follows the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults.
Steppin’ Up with Confidence is a once or twice-weekly group fitness class. A trained peer leader teaches each usually hour-long session, demonstrating how to do various exercises and activities. The classes focus on performing safe physical activity by improving multiple areas, including cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance, balance, and flexibility. The program is accessible for all; activities can be performed sitting or standing and are adaptable to all ability levels. Participants are also taught exercises that can be done at home to encourage daily physical activity. Throughout the program, participants’ balance and confidence are increased so they can perform activities of daily living without a fear of falling.
The volunteer peer leaders are enthusiastic and love teaching their classes. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 17 communities across the Prairie Mountain Health region had successful Steppin’ Up with Confidence programs. Participants enjoyed the physical and social aspects of the program, and most attended sessions regularly. Due to gathering size restrictions throughout the pandemic, leaders came up with innovative ideas to keep their communities active, including adapting the sessions to virtual and video formats. Alyce Richards, a peer leader from Neepawa, has even had her program broadcasted regularly on channel 1030 of MTS cable! Leaders look forward to gathering in person again once it is safe to do so.