Northern seniors say stretching stimulates stability – and spirit!

May 13, 2015

This month, I have a wonderful group of experts helping me tell you about some of the great things happening with seniors’ health care across Northeastern Ontario. 

These fellow Northerners are experts in living long and healthy lives and their stories are inspirational.  Greater confidence, more stability, new friendships – these are some of the reasons they gave when asked why taking “free” exercise classes offered across the region through North East LHIN is important.

Let me give you some background on how the LHIN is investing in our seniors’ well-being. In a unique partnership with our five Public Health Units, we adopted Stay on Your Feet (SOYF) as a falls’ prevention program for older adults.  The overall goal is to increase the quality of life for older adults by reducing the rate and severity of falls. 

Recently, the NE LHIN committed 1.5 Million over the next three years to implement Stay on Your Feet. Other key partners include hospitals, primary care, municipalities, community support services, Community Care Assess Centre, long-term care, retirement homes and older adults. 

Through Stay on Your Feet stability and balance, and other risk factors, are addressed through exercise classes offered across our region -- 177 exercise classes and 111 falls’ prevention exercise classes (called Stand Up!).  A complete list of exercise class locations can be found on our website here, and for falls’ prevention classes, people can call their local health unit for registration information.

Exercises class are just one of the ways the LHIN is investing in seniors’ care.  We also provide support for things like  meals on wheels, transportation, assisted living – all ways to help each one of us as we age and keep our desire to live independently for as long as possible.  Who would have thought even a decade ago, that a health-care investment would include an exercise class?  We now know that staying healthy and well in community means fewer emergency room visits and fewer hospitals stays – and that’s a very good thing.

I’d like to introduce you to our experts who, in their own words, say why they enjoy the Stand Up! classes they attended at the YMCA in North Bay.

Dorothy Latimer, 89, attends classes to work on balance and strength (that’s her smiling self-portrait with her words!) “I used to fall. These classes have helped. My son-in-law is doing the same classes in Hearst. I didn’t know they had them in Hearst.” 

“A lot of the exercises you can do at home. You don’t need equipment. You can fit them in between commercials,” says Dianne Timber, shown at right with her reasons for participating.“It’s a great social thing. Dorothy is the inspiration for all of us. She’s 89. I’m 60 and I want to be Dorothy when I grow up.”

Mae Fisher, 83, said she fell 2.5 years ago. She was in hospital and then had a lot of therapy in hospital over the following months. She was told that she needed her balance, so she’s happy to attend the classes. “I feel very strong about these exercises,” says Fisher.

Rita Harwood said her entire aquafit class decided to take the falls prevention class. She lists physical and personal benefits from attending classes.

“We laugh as much as we learn,” says Eloise Stevens. “It’s just a wonderful program and it inspires you to do more.”

“It’s helped me a lot with my balance,” said Marie Rondeau. “(Classes) gave me confidence in keeping my balance.”

Brenda Harper-Cunningham describes the class as “An awesome opportunity to shine. Mobility is a big issue since I’ve had medical issues.” When asked what she’d tell an older adult about participating? “Don’t be afraid to try anything new.”

Gail Kirkbride said the classes have “two of the best instructors.” She notes that there are many fall prevention tips offered during the class, like having hand rails where needed and keeping areas lit well.

I welcome your ideas, experiences and concerns. You can always stay in touch through email at