Targeted stretching is just one element of SAIL classes, pictured here at a recent KPCS class. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Classes build on an existing program to help older people remain active and independent.

SAIL, which stands for Stay Active and Independent for Life, is a strength, balance and fitness program designed to reduce the risk of falling for adults age 65 and over. 

The program was formed in response to a 2005 study funded by the Washington State Department of Health, which found that participants in such a program improved their balance, mobility skills and leg strength. In addition, seniors who participate in SAIL tend to report a decreased fear of falling, a critical quality-of-life component.

KP Community Services in Home has been providing free SAIL classes for 11 years, but a state-mandated enrollment cap of 20 per class made for a very long waiting list. With The Mustard Seed Project SAIL class beginning in March, significantly more seniors are now able to access SAIL locally. 

Barbara Paige, an 86-year old participant, said she is thrilled to have a spot in SAIL at TMSP.

“There wasn’t anything for me out here. When this came up, as close as it is for me, it was wonderful,” Paige said. 

One in four Americans age 65 or older falls each year.

Transportation will be provided to and from the program for those who are unable to drive themselves. The class fee is $5, but scholarships are available.

“The whole thing really fits with the mission of The Mustard Seed,” said Maureen Reilly, operations director for TMSP. “Keep people in their homes for as long as possible with a good quality of life.” 

One in four Americans age 65 or older falls each year. In an attempt to reduce their risk, many seniors choose to limit their activities and spend more time at home. But this impacts quality of life and does little to reduce risk, as home is where most falls occur. 

Each one-hour class incorporates stretching, warm-up, aerobics, cool-down and strength training. Participants are welcome to complete the class standing or sitting. But SAIL classes offered through TMSP go beyond a simple workout. An education component, based partially on the group’s interests and needs, might cover nutrition, foot care, nightlights or other topics. 

Prevention Officer Anne Nesbit with the KP Fire Department. gives fall-prevention talks and makes home visits to evaluate a senior’s residence for tripping hazards, help declutter living areas, install handrails or help re-arrange furniture to increase safety. Depending on a person’s needs, she also ensures that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working. 

“They can call me and we can navigate that together,” Nesbit said. “We want our elderly to realize that there are a lot of resources out there, and they are not forgotten.” 

Smiling faces are a familiar sight at this SAIL class at KPCS Senior Center where age groups span three decades. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Pharmacists with Cost Less Pharmacy in Lake Kathryn also donate their time to the TMSP SAIL program, Reilly said. Seniors can bring medications to a SAIL class to be checked for potentially harmful interactions between multiple prescriptions. There is also an annual vision check.

TMSP board member Lisa Dunham said that socialization with other seniors keeps folks coming back to SAIL.

“People share information. It becomes ‘Yeah, that happened to me too.’ I think that is a very valuable result of coming together in a group,” she said. 

Betty Watkinson has been a longtime SAIL participant through KP Community Services. “I went to physical therapy as well, but I got more out of SAIL because of the camaraderie, and the discipline to keep with it,” she said.

The new SAIL classes meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Crandall Center Building (formerly the Roadhouse Restaurant) in Key Center. All participants begin with a baseline assessment of skills. A release form, signed by a physician, is required.

“I would like people to understand that this is a gift they give themselves,” Reilly said. “It’s a way for them to feel good, feel energized, breathe a little deeper, feel a little more balanced and stable.”

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