SAFE: The New Senior Adult Fitness Exercise Program for Healthy Aging and Fall Prevention
The alarming rate of population aging has created a tidal wave of physical and psychological repercussions for our at-risk seniors and overburdened healthcare system. Time to ring the bell on this dire situation.
According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), falls were responsible for 21,644 deaths in Quebec between 2000 and 2019, or an average of 1,082 deaths per year (INSPQ, 2022).
One in three people over the age of 75 falls every year, and once that happens, there is a higher probability that they will fall again within 12 months (Statistics Canada, 2014).
SAFE is a website with a series of guided exercise videos targeting the four components of fitness – strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance.
The fear of falling is a major risk factor that severely limits seniors’ activities. By helping seniors maintain lower body strength and balance, SAFE combats the chronic consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
Should a fall occur, an older senior with improved muscle mass, joint flexibility and gait stability has a greater likelihood of hastening the post-fall recovery period.
CODE LiFE: The Montreal General Hospital Foundation is pleased to present the new online program SAFE (Senior Adult Fitness Exercises), an initiative piloted by Dr. José A. Morais, geriatrician of 25 years and Director of the McGill Division of Geriatric Medicine. Now available throughout Quebec, SAFE is a free website which features a series of gentle, low impact exercise videos designed for seniors. Perusing the site also reveals a host of helpful information, articles and recommendations.
“Healthy aging and the prevention of falls is a public health issue that demands immediate attention,” says Dr. Morais. “Exercise is one of the best and simplest ways to combat the many effects of impaired mobility as well as other senior problems such as loss of autonomy, diminished mental focus, poor sleep quality and isolation. The positive effects of physical activity for older adults are boundless.”
The Highs And Lows Of Immobility And Falls
Every number tells a story and these are too distressing to overlook. Falls are responsible for 85% of injury-related hospitalizations in older adults, and account for 95% of all hip fractures. What’s more, over 30% of seniors will need to be admitted to long-term care facilities after their hospital stay. All told, this adds up to a hefty $2 billion a year in direct healthcare costs across Canada (Government of Canada, 2021).
“These situations are exactly what we want to avoid,” says Jean-Guy Gourdeau, President and CEO of CODE LiFE: The Montreal General Hospital Foundation. “It is vital that we find ways to help maintain seniors’ health, mobility, and independence for as long as possible. SAFE does precisely that through its curated senior-centric program.”
This perspective was the impetus that gave SAFE its legs. The website is home-based, user friendly, visually appealing, and above all, available to everyone. To that end, no logins or passwords are required; only that all seniors and their caregivers be able to easily navigate the videos and incorporate it into their daily lives. By stacking the odds in their favour, the hope is that it translates to an ongoing commitment to the exercises and their own wellbeing.
SAFE is built on the universal foundation of the four pillars of exercise and fitness:
Strength: Builds muscle in hips, ankles, and knees to make daily activities easier.
Balance: Improves coordination and stability and helps lessen the anxiety about falling
Flexibility: Relieves stiff joints and increases range of motion.
Endurance: Boosts stamina by increasing heart and lung health.
SAFE’s Mission Earns The Backing Of Likeminded Supporters
Bridging the gap between life-altering initiatives and funding opportunities is a priority at the Foundation. When allied with advocates who share a same community vision, these programs can then become a reality. “We have been truly fortunate to partner with the Grace Dart Foundation and Scotiabank whose generosity and support have made the development of SAFE possible,” says Mr. Goudreau.
According to Elise Nesbitt, Chair of the Grace Dart Foundation “When we were first approached, we were immediately on board. Our efforts revolve around the improved wellbeing of our elderly and this program perfectly aligns with that goal. Keeping them out of emergency rooms, free from pain and arduous rehabilitation is so important.”
“Scotiabank is proud to partner with the Montreal General Hospital foundation to support SAFE’s mission to reduce the risk of serious falls amongst seniors,” said Genevieve Brouillard, Senior Vice President, Quebec and Eastern Ontario at Scotiabank. “The COVID pandemic has served to highlight how vulnerable many seniors are, with isolation and a sedentary lifestyle working hand-in-hand to heighten their health risks. We are committed to supporting accessible and long-term healthcare options for seniors that enable them to live a stronger, healthier life.”
It is never too late to start exercising. This program allows our valued seniors to embrace exercise at their own pace and move towards better health and a better quality of life.
Dr. José Morais is our guest on this episode of the CODE LiFE Interviews. An expert on aging, he is the Director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the McGill University Health Centre. He also created the Falls Assessment Clinic at the Montreal General Hospital. This podcast is hosted and co-produced by journalist Annie DeMelt.
Click on the image to watch the video (in French with English subtitles).