Class helps seniors keep their footing through ballet

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Kaiser Permanente, along with the Sacramento Ballet, has formed a unique partnership to help seniors keep their feet underneath them and maintain their balance — and have fun doing it.

They come once a week to the Sacramento Ballet, so many, that one room isn’t big enough for all of these so-called baby-boomers.

“I could not believe how much fun it was, because I kind of thought, ‘Ballet, how am I going to get on my tip-toes? I don’t think I’d be very good at that,” student Kathy Frodahl said.

Seniors, mostly women, come to work on balance, posture and strength through ballet.

“It’s more of just a physical awareness, and movement with music that is inspired by ballet,” instructor Cynthia Drayer said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults over the age of 65 fall each year, and one in five of those falls results in a serious injury — such as head trauma or a fracture.

This class deals directly with that fear of falling for seniors.

“Becoming aware of how we plant our feet, how we use our muscles, how we consciously hold our upper body is all helpful, like your eyes, where you focus, how you hold your head in helping to prevent falls,” Drayer said.

“We try to explain to people, it’s not a ballet class,” RN, Trauma Program Director at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Christine McGahey said. “You’re not going to be going around on ballet slippers, it’s actually more of the movements ballet uses.”

The program, called Fall Prevention Through Movement, has been going on for a little more than a year now and has helped hundreds of seniors– seniors like Janice Willing, who have become more susceptible to falling due to back surgery.

“I knew it was going to happen,” she said. “It was just a matter of time.”

Since taking the class, though, starting back in June, Willing has not fallen once…

Willing isn’t the only one who sees the class as a game-changer at this stage of their lives…

“I feel more confident that that is not going to happen. So, that makes you get out more, do more things that before you might be worried that you might fall,” Frodahl said.

About the only thing that hasn’t gone well for the class is the number of men taking part.

“Ballet is a word that does scare some people, especially men. We’ve had a hard time getting some men involved in the class,” McGahey said.

The classes are free to anyone, including men, over 55.

“This is something we need to do for the rest of our lives. It’s not something we do for a season, or for a year because you need it on a weekly basis,” Fordahl said. “You need to keep up all the strength, every muscle of your body.”

Don’t think of it as ballet, think of it as a way to keep life going strong — one step at a time.

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