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New “Safe Stance” program keeps seniors on their feet

By Cindy Mindell

NEW HAVEN – For more than 40 years, the Tower One/Tower East senior living community – also known as The Towers – has provided housing and services for older adults throughout Greater New Haven, grounded in Jewish tradition. In that time, its offerings have expanded to include a full kosher dining experience, on-site assisted living services, physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology, and adult social services, as well as a broad range of activities and programs.

Now, The Towers is turning its attention to an issue critical to healthy aging.

“With the average age of the current U.S. population continuing to rise, so does the incidence of fall-related injuries and deaths,” explains Mark Garilli, president and CEO of The Towers. “More than one-third of adults aged 65 years and older fall each year, and 25 percent of them end up in nursing homes within a year.”

By 2040, falls are projected to increase by 50 percent over the current average, with related healthcare costs estimated to increase to $240 billion nationally.

In response, The Towers recently implemented a fall-prevention program for its residents. The pilot program has already established a track record, reducing falls and emergency-room visits, and precluding the need to move residents to a level of care requiring more supervision. After conducting a needs assessment among residents and in the community, it became clear that there was more to be done to reduce the incidence of fall-related injuries.

With the success of the pilot program in house, The Towers decided to take it on the road.

“We looked at where we thought we could have the largest impact outside of our four walls,” says Garilli. “It didn’t take long to move to our wellness program and select fall prevention as the primary target for supporting seniors in the community.”

Last autumn, when The Towers decided to apply for a matching grant from the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Greater New Haven, administration reached out to donors, particularly those with an interest in wellness. The response was overwhelming, Garilli says, and the funding resulted in the creation of the Safe Stance Towers Fall Prevention Program.

The Safe Stance program is based on recommendations from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Safety Council, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the research protocols of several university programs. Garilli and his staff wanted to focus on specific aspects of fall prevention, building their program around five objectives: education for seniors, family members, and caregivers on all aspects of fall prevention; targeted exercise programs; medication management and assessments in partnership with healthcare providers; monitoring visual acuity; and home hazard assessments and modifications.

The free sessions are presented by local certified instructors, including a rehabilitation provider, optometrist, and pharmacist, with each session presented twice in Hamden, at Temple Beth Sholom and Congregation Mishkan Israel.

With the Safe Stance Towers Fall Prevention Series Program as a first step in reaching isolated seniors in the community, Garilli says that The Towers is expanding its outreach efforts in other ways. A recent partnership with Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven brings Kosher Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors. The Towers has teamed up with the local Helping Hands Community Thrift Store and Donation Bank to get gently used furniture and clothing from staff, residents, and family members to people in need in the community. For several years, The Towers has been working with other Jewish Federation-affiliated agencies to provide intergenerational programming for its senior residents and kids at Ezra Academy (Woodbridge), Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy (Orange), and Camp Laurelwood (Madison).

“Everything we do at The Towers is in an effort to keep our seniors living independent and fulfilling lives and we owe it all to the generosity of our donors and the skill set of our service providers,” says Garilli.

On that note, Garilli offers two important fall prevention tips:

Be aware of your surroundings and identify fall hazards in your everyday environment and do your best to either eliminate the hazard or make a mental note to work around it.

Stay in tune with your physical abilities. Don’t take on more than your body can handle, and exercise to prepare you for your activities of daily living.

Safe Stance Towers Fall Prevention Series: Wednesdays or Thursdays, April 22 – May 28. For more information and/or a schedule/ of programs, contact: towerone.org or (203) 772-1816, ext. 280.

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