Juanita Bourque, left, and William Allan, from Inuvik, learn some exercises at a recent Elders in Motion training gathering in Yellowknife. photo courtesy of the NWTRPA

An NWT organization is leading a workshop to trying to mitigate one of the biggest public health threats to seniors in the nation: falls.

The Fitness for Falls workshop ran yesterday and continues today to help those working with the NWT’s senior population to develop exercise regimes that help with balance, strength and flexibility.

“Leg raises, toe taps, those kinds of things—they’re very simple exercises that don’t need much equipment,” said Sheena Tremblay, director of active communities for the NWT Recreation and Parks Association.

The association is offering this workshop as part of its Elders in Motion program, which began in 2009.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury to older adults in Canada, accounting for 85 per cent of hospitalizations for injuries among seniors, and 20 to 30 per cent of the nation’s senior population take falls each year.

The injuries from falls — such as hip fractures, which are caused by falls among seniors in 95 per cent of all instances — can cause chronic pain, loss of mobility, and the time spent immobile can cause a loss of physical fitness that is hard to regain.

According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, the NWT can expect an increase a jump in its seniors population of 80 per cent by 2035.

Active living is one way to help mitigate the health-care costs, and help create better quality of life, for the territory’s seniors, hence the support for the NWTRPA’s Elder’s in Motion program from the Department of Health and Social Services as well as Aurora College and the NWT Seniors’ Society. The program itself is a partnership between the NWTRPA, the Dene Nation and the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging.

“The Elders in Motion program includes numerous training and workshops, and supports leaders in the Northwest Territories to organize and deliver recreational programs for older adults,” says Tremblay.

According to the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging, daily exercise and the maintenance of physical fitness can have a bevy of benefits for the aging population.

Besides helping maintain independence and quality of life, it positions elders to in better shape coming out of, say, a week of inactivity due to illness.

The centre, which is a division of Western University in London, ON, also states regular physical activity can deter the development of chronic diseases.

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