Balance classes for seniors are popular

Trena Winans has a problem on her hands, but it is not a bad problem. 

The Midland County Senior Services’ twice-weekly class “Matter of Balance: Help Reduce the Risk of Falls” that begins Aug. 22 already is full and has a wait list

It’s that popular, that important.
Trena Winans is the Director of Education and Outreach at Senior Services.
And it is why Winans, director of education and community outreach at Senior Services, goes out of her way to try to place interested people in other exercise classes offered through senior services and other local recreation outlets, as well as other advice that can be used at home to reduce the risk of falling.”.

As the prospectus notes, the need for the class, and others like it, can be life-saving: “This outstanding evidence-based series of classes is proven to help reduce risk of falls. As we tend to lose balance, strength and flexibility and have vision changes as we age, our risk increases. The good news is we can do something about it,” it reads.

Winans says the class usually is offered only once a year at senior services, but there are other exercise classes that delve less into the theory and practically of the evidenced-based class and more into building strength and flexibility, but they are merely different routes to the same destination - reducing the risk of falling. These classes are offered year-round.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations who do research on the problem, more than one out of four Americans age 65+ fall each year and the majority (60%) of falls happen in the home, 30% in a public setting, and 10% in a health care center.

According to the National Council on Aging, “Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.”

Winans agrees, and believes the other Senior Services classes that encourage seniors to keep moving are equally important and most are offered on an ongoing, drop-in basis. 

For instance, Julie Pierce has a “Fall Prevention and Balance” class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and “ is intended to reduce participants’ fall risk and thereby, maintain their mobility and independence for as long as possible. Exercises for muscular strength and endurance using multiple joints and numerous muscles result in functional fitness for fall prevention. This class will address the key components of Agility, Balance, Coordination, Speed/Reaction Time, and Power (i.e. lower body muscle strength), as well as education about fall risk and prevention.”

 For the past 15 years Pierce’s focus has been leading fitness classes for older adults (age 50+), including mat yoga, chair yoga, balance/fall prevention, SilverSneakers, Pilates, low-impact aerobics, step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, and strength intervals.

"It's always better to prevent falls by being active, and it's never too late to work on it. The time to start is now.”
Senior services offers three monthly calendars. One features fitness classes, the second focuses on educational classes and the third shows events scheduled at Senior Services locations throughout the county. The information presented is easy to understand so you can better sign up for the classes you’d like to attend.  

“A lot of the classes, such as Zumba, yoga and Bonesavers (a weight training class for the prevention of osteoporosis) and others,  focus on muscle strength and flexibility. All are helpful for balance,” Winans says. “It’s all about not limiting yourself. It's always better to prevent falls by being active, and it's never too late to work on it. The time to start is now.”

Winans is a certified Zumba Gold instructor and has over 40 years of dance experience. Finally, Winans says some of the classes offer advice on things that can be done to encourage working out at home and to do a safety inventory (such as not wearing flip-flops, installing grab bars and eliminating throw rugs).

Call 989-633-3700 or visit to see the offerings, to sign-up or to be put on the waitlist for any and all of the classes.

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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at