Two North Dakota State professors conducted research on the new fall prevention program, Stepping On, that was introduced to North Dakota in 2012. Sean Brotherson, professor and extension family science specialist, and Jane Strommen, assistant professor of practice and extension gerontology specialist, assessed the fall prevention program aimed at older adults to take control of their fall risk factors, reduce their fall risk and explore different behavioral steps.
The study showed the effectiveness of the program in assisting older adults with fall risks, coping behaviors and safety strategies in everyday life.
“The purpose of this study was to collect information on demographic characteristics of program participants and their perceptions of the program’s value, as well as perceived outcomes related to knowledge and behavior associated with fall prevention,” Strommen said. “Stepping On highlights a variety of topics including falls and risk, strength and balance exercises, home hazards, safe footwear, vision and falls, safety in public places, community mobility, coping after a fall, and understanding how to initiate a medication review.”
The research was published in the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension’s October 2017 issue and titled, “Older Adult Knowledge and Behavior Change in the Stepping On Fall Prevention Program in A Community Setting.”
Participants also provided feedback regarding their experience in the program and allowed for an assessment on how the Stepping On program affected older adults who participated in the program.
“Those participating in Stepping On were asked to complete a retrospective self-report questionnaire administered at completion of the program,” Strommen explained. “Three months after completing the program, participants came together again to engage in a program booster session, and during that session, they were also encouraged to complete a follow-up survey.”
Stepping On is a community-based workshop that’s offered once a week for seven weeks in a small group setting.
“Local and state entities have become involved by supporting their staff members to become class leaders for Stepping On,” Strommen said. “NDSU Extension has partnered to implement this program by training over 20 county Extension educators to offer this new program in communities across the state.”
Participants typically live in a home or apartments and have the ability to walk without help and don’t use a walker, scooter or wheelchair for mobility. “Older adults who attend include those who (a) are at risk of falling, (b) have a fear of falling or (c) have fallen one or more times,” Strommen said.
The program was launched in March 2012, and there have been 26 workshops statewide with 308 participants. The workshops are led by two professional leaders trained to work with older adults, and participants receive an individualized home visit and booster session after the workshop.
As of March 2015, there have been 21 workshops in 12 counties with 222 participants enrolled where data was collected, and, of that total, 182 participants have completed the survey and all participants attended four or more sessions on a voluntary basis to be included in evaluations and surveys.
Falls are the third leading cause of injury related fatalities across all ages in North Dakota, behind motor vehicle crashes and suicides.
From 2009 to 2013 in North Dakota, 89 percent of all fall related deaths were in individuals 65 years and older, with most falls occurring in their homes.
“As the Baby Boom generation continues to age, interventions designed to assist them in maintaining independence, mobility and quality of life will be increasingly important,” Strommen said. “The NDS Extension Service can function as a critical and effective partner in facilitating such programs and bringing their benefits to the lives of older adults.”