Getting the Balance Right


Post by Colin Milner, Founder and CEO of the International Council on Active Aging®

Does your center or community have a yoga studio or personal-training area? If so, odds are that you offer these programs because of growing demand or as a new way to meet your clients’ needs. With the youngest Boomers celebrating their 50th birthday this year—and exponential growth in older age groups for many years to come—many new opportunities are available to support health and wellness. One such opportunity is a “balance center.”

Why balance?

What is a balance center, and why should you consider adding one? A balance center offers you the ability to address a significant need in the older-adult population—one that will only become more pressing given today’s changing demographics. Consider the picture in the United States, for example:

•  One in every three people older than 65 will fall this year.

•  Approximately half the age 65-plus individuals who have fallen will fall again in the next 12 months.

•  Strength- and balance-training programs could reduce the number of falls by up to 40%.

Few older adults have their balance screened by a physician prior to a fall despite the fact that many have a higher fall risk due to changes linked with aging. Yet falls can cause life-altering injuries or death. Even when individuals avoid injury in a fall, the fear associated with falling again can lead to social isolation, depression and a downward spiral in health. So falls have immense emotional and financial effects on older adults and their families and caregivers.

By addressing this issue with a balance center, you can expand your reach and tap into more than 30% of the age 65-plus market—all while helping individuals reduce fall risk, maintain independence and improve quality of life.

The program

How might your balance center work?  Imagine this: Clients walk into to your new Balance Center, once a poorly used room or space in your community or center. The waiting area for balance and fall risk-assessments is full, as one client after another goes through your new assessment program. Upon completion of these assessments, an appointment is scheduled, and a copy of the report is emailed or faxed to three people: your client’s doctor, your balance training specialist, and your billing department.

Your balance specialist then calls the client’s doctor to discuss a course of action. First, they would establish if any health issues exist that would preclude your client from moving forward. Next, they would explore if your client has any drug interactions that may cause balance issues. Such interactions are more possible than people realize, as 75% of people ages 65-plus take at least one prescription medication, while the average number of medications ranges from two to four.

Once an individual program is created, your well-educated balance specialist will schedule the client’s first session. You can find these specialized trainers at places such as the Center for Successful Aging at California State University, Fullerton, as well as other colleges and universities. Your programming area would have everything from basic wobble boards and strength equipment to a cobblestone path, or more sophisticated equipment such as computerized strength and balance tools. No matter which tools are used, your client’s progress is monitored.

After the training session, your client may wish to read one of your many publications or handouts on balance, strength training or other balance-related topic. The individual may also register for your weekly educational seminar. This week’s session, “Hazards in the Home,” looks at fall hazards such as poor lighting and loose carpeting. The key is to educate your client without being preachy or condescending—everyone already knows that falls are dangerous.

Now it’s your turn to sit back and envision your program. At the same time, you can dream about how you could turn a balance center that supports the health and wellness of your clients into an opportunity to expand your business.