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Health Team

Exercise program fosters independence for seniors

Posted December 26, 2013
Updated December 29, 2013

There’s one room inside the Carolina Geriatric Education Center in Hillsborough that helps seniors such as Helen Davis keep their independence.

Davis, 87, attends the free exercise classes at the center, which helps seniors stay on their feet and remain free of using a walker or wheelchair to get around or living in a nursing home.

“I needed to work on staying steady so I could be independent,” she said.

The center uses a program called Otago, which consists of a variety of exercises seniors are taught to do at home. The program has helped reduce falls by up to 40 percent.

Falls are the top reason for emergency hospital visits and accidental deaths for older adults in North Carolina.

“Once they learn the exercises they can do it very easily in their home, at the kitchen sink,” said Vicki Tilley, a physical therapist at the center who teaches the exercises.

After being in the program for six months, Tilley assesses the seniors at home. Participants continue the program as long as they can.

Davis has a treadmill at home and uses it 30 minutes a day. Being in the program has helped her keep her balance.

“I can tell that I’m much stronger,” she said. “I can balance myself better. I feel more confident. I’m staying in the house by myself.”

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