Contact us

Catherine Sampson

Jan 062014
 January 6, 2014  Posted by  Aging in Place, Health

Matter of Balance classElsie was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration when she was 79. “I have been afraid of falling for years, but I am especially afraid now that I can’t see well,” says Elsie.

Fear is Risk Factor for Falls

The ‘fear of falling’ is a significant risk factor to falling. Just as many others who are afraid of a fall, Elsie had begun to limit her activity. Inactivity increases the risk of falling that much more. Inactivity leads to isolation, isolation leads to depression. So the downward cycle goes.

Elsie’s building manager suggested she take a class called A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls. A Matter of Balance is an 8-week class that helps participants examine their attitudes and habits to reduce the fear that surrounds falling. Participants also evaluate their environments and find ways to increase their activities. The exercises in the class increase strength, flexibility, balance and endurance.

During visits to Matter of Balance (MOB) workshops, Debra Laine, MOB Master Trainer for the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging (AAAA), noticed at least one if not more participants in each class were having trouble seeing workbooks, following class materials and doing exercises.

Matter of Balance exercises“It sent me on a quest to empower those with vision loss to fully access course materials and take advantage of the class,” says Laine. The AAAA applied for a Healthy Vision Community Award grant from the National Eye Institute. Upon receipt of the grant, the AAAA led a collaborative effort with the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind and Maine Health Partnership to adapt the MOB materials for those with vision impairment.

Adaptations Provide Access for Those with Low Vision

When Elsie arrived at her Matter of Balance class, she told her coaches about her vision loss. They were able to give her a large-print edition of the Participant Workbook and a set of hand-held flip charts so she could easily see what was on the large group flip charts. The coaches also showed videos in smaller segments and used more detailed descriptions of exercises. They were better able to meet her needs because of the training they had gone through for working with participants with vision loss.

If you are interested in low-vision Matter of Balance, check with the Area Agency on Aging in your region. If you represent an agency that would like to use the low-vision adaptations, please visit the national MOB website for the training and to obtain the adapted materials.

For more information on Matter of Balance and the low vision adaptation, please visit one of the following these links:

Maine Health – What is A Matter of Balance?
VisionAware: Resources for Independent Living with Vision Loss

Article by Debra Laine, Special Programs Developer, Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging.