Have you ever tried to schedule a group of women for an activity? Add to that their average age of 84, their complete unfamiliarity with the activity, along with Ceramics Class, Bingo, Swimming, Catholic Mass, and excuses like “If I’m still alive, I’ll probably be there, (chuckle, chuckle),” and you have a challenge. You wouldn’t think that a bunch of old ladies would have no spare time at all, or that their time could not mesh with anyone else’s. Such is the life of any 80-year-old. I have now changed the schedule four times. Someone will tell me I should have it at such-and-such a time to suit her better. That’s it, no more.
I will be teaching a class on “Move With Balance,” an award-winning* program that was designed to keep the elderly from falling. The author, Karen Peterson, does not call it exercise, although there is plenty of body movement; she names it “Healthy Activities for Brain and Body.” The activities include tapping your knees alternately left and right; lifting the legs alternately; tossing beanbags; bouncing tennis balls; and more than 60 other activities that coordinate left and right sides of the brain with the body. These activities improve both balance and cognitive skills, both of which decline if we don’t keep our bodies moving with balance. Of course men are invited too, but I am sure none will show up.
According to the National Council on Aging, one in three over the age of 65 will fall, every 18 seconds an old person will arrive at an emergency room after having a fall, and every 35 minutes an old person will die from complications following a tumble. That’s why this class is so important. I don’t want any of my neighbors, or myself, to succumb to such an incident. In addition, annual costs associated with such falls are expected to reach $55 billion by the year 2020. Most falls are preventable.
All that aside, yesterday I went to see my neighbor Louise to invite her to join the class. She has macula degeneration, diabetes, and neuropathy in her feet. She is the perfect candidate for this class, and her front door is only 10 feet away from the community room where it will be held. She told me she is terrified of falling, and she goes nowhere without her cane. But do you think she would commit to this Friday morning class? I explained it quite thoroughly to her so she would understand that it would help her. I am collecting a one-time fee of $3 for materials, such as beanbags. That does not include the time I spend making them. Louise watches Catholic Mass every morning at 10. So I changed the time to 10:30. She proceeded to entertain me with family stories, distracting me, and laughing at all of us whose “insides are falling down.” “Do you know that our pelvises are falling down because we are so old?” she said, her hands cupping her belly. She told me she is 86. I told her I would be there Friday morning pounding on her door, and she had better be ready. “Okay, if I’m still alive,” she laughed “and you want bean money!” I love Louise. She keeps me laughing.* Winner of the 2012 MetLife Mind Alert Award from the American Society on Aging 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award Educational Kinesiology Foundation Na Lima Kokua Business Award 2010 Hawai’i Pacific Gerontological Society Merit Finalist Award 2009 Mutual of America Foundation Governor’s Award 2009 Hawai’i Commission for National and Community Service