Springfield College Department of Physical Therapy Launches Grant-funded Falls-reduction Initiative

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Department of Physical Therapy, with support of a $287,000 grant from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is undertaking a three-year initiative to provide community-based falls risk-reduction programming for older adults in Western Mass. In collaboration with partners that include the Healthy Living Coalition of Western Massachusetts, this project will provide programs to reduce falls risk for residents of the four-county region.

“I am grateful to the ACL for their support of this initiative for older adults in our area,” said Dr. Regina Kaufman, Springfield College professor of Physical Therapy and board-certified specialist in neurologic physical therapy. Kaufman and the project team will focus on two evidence-based falls risk-reduction programs: Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) and Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance (MBB). The ACL funding will support implementation of the two programs through Springfield College’s Physical Therapy Community Mobility Clinic, and will build capacity for program implementation by local community-based agencies. The initiative will increase older-adult enrollment in these falls risk-reduction programs, particularly among underserved and non-English-speaking residents, and develop strategies for program support and sustainability among program partners.

“We’ll be working through our clinic, and with agencies throughout the Western Massachusetts region, to engage older adults in the SAIL and MBB programs,” Kaufman explained. “These evidence-based balance and mobility training programs are effective in reducing the risk and incidence of falls among older adults who complete them. There are major challenges in making these programs accessible to older adults in Western Massachusetts. Support from ACL allows us to work closely with community agencies throughout the four-county region to increase program capacity and engage more older adults in programming that has the potential to improve their balance and ultimately the quality of their lives.”

Joining Kaufman on the project are Springfield College Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Kimberly Nowakowski, a board-certified specialist in geriatric physical therapy and a certified exercise expert for aging adults, and Department of Physical Therapy Chair Dr. Julia Chevan, a board-certified specialist in orthopedic physical therapy. Kaufman is already a certified SAIL program leader, and Nowakowski and Kaufman are trained MBB instructors. SAIL and MBB join Walk with Ease (Arthritis Foundation) as the next in a line of evidence-based balance and mobility improvement programs offered by the Community Mobility Clinic at Springfield College.

“The project leaders represent a powerful team of seasoned clinicians dedicated to enhancing access to services for all older people in our region, regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, including people who don’t speak English,” said Brooke Hallowell, dean of the Springfield College School of Health Sciences. “This programming empowers older adults to enhance their own health, well-being, and independence. It’s a wonderful complement to our institution-wide interdisciplinary emphasis at Springfield College on proactive, strengths-based approaches to aging.”

Added Kaufman, “reducing the likelihood of falling is one important way to help older adults to thrive and to live comfortably and safely in their own homes and communities. We look forward to helping improve the mobility and independence of our Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire county neighbors.”