Steady As You Go
Steady As You Go is a peer-led programme with exercises classes that started in Otago. It is being extended to some other regions, so we asked some regular participants in Dunedin about their experience.
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Valda White is brimming with enthusiasm. She’s a Peer Leader for an Age Concern Otago Steady As You Go group in Dunedin - and she’s a lot of fun. Always active, Valda volunteered with the New Zealand Navy Cadets right up until retirement.
“When they first brought women into the Navy to go on ships, I went in as a chaperone for the girls. I went out shooting with the army and sailing with the kids. I had a wow of a time!”
Still, Valda remembers what it was like when she first heard of Steady As You Go (SAYGo). At the time, she had lost her husband and her family had moved away. “I was lonely. And I felt sorry for myself,” she says. “I didn’t fancy walking into a room full of people that I didn’t know.”
Four years on, and Valda is now a peer leader of Steady As You Go. It’s a fun social group that teaches practical fall prevention skills. “And I'd never give it up. I love it, I really do.”
Valda starts each class with the group throwing a ball to each other while saying each other’s names. “It creates a bit of a laugh,” she says. “Half the time they miss the ball, or kick it away!”
“A lot of people were like me, and had been very withdrawn. But when you’ve got a lot of people around you who accept you for who you are, it draws you out. It’s about preventing falls. But we also come for the company and the laugh. It’s a lot of fun.”
Who can join Steady As You Go?
“We'd never turn anyone away,” says Valda. Her class members range from people with physical disabilities to the very fit and able. “I’ve got an 89 year old in my class - she can do the can-can,” Valda laughs. “They come from all walks of life.”
Some of the class have recovered from serious illness, and quite a few have had hip replacements. “We’ve had them here six weeks later doing exercises,” says Valda.
When Ron joined Valda’s class he was using two walking sticks outside and a walker around the house. He has several physical disabilities including asthma, but after three years of Steady As You Go, Ron can now walk freely. “He doesn’t even need his big walking boots,” says Valda.
What you learn at Steady As You Go
“Once you hit 60, that's when the aches and pains start,” says Valda. “Your hearing and sight is affected and that affects your balance.”
Steady As You Go exercises are designed to help older people in their ordinary everyday lives. Groups practice balance, coordination-building and muscle-strengthening exercises such as standing on tip toes or moving from a sitting to standing position.
There are eye exercises to assist balance and strengthen the muscles used for peripheral vision, which are needed for driving. Participants are also taught practical steps to avoid injury – like squatting down to the pot cupboard and being careful not to step on the bedspread when making the bed.
Doctors and physiotherapists have started to recommend Steady As You Go to their patients. “It’s about preventing falls,” says Valda. “And the company. And the laugh!”
How to join a Steady As You Go class
Steady As You Go classes are held weekly, for one hour a week.
People who are interested in joining the class don’t have to join straight away.
“You can ring up before you make a decision and have a chat,” says Valda, who understands how it feels to walk into somewhere unknown for the first time.
“We’ll sit you next to someone we know is friendly, and make you feel welcome.”
Steady As You Go has 40 neighbourhood classes in Dunedin and 16 in the rest of Otago.
Age Concern in Wanganui, Tauranga and Thames are also offering Steady As You Go and it may be extended to further regions next year.
What does it cost to join Steady As You Go?
It varies, but Valda’s class members pay $2 each to cover the rent of the hall they use. If there’s any money leftover, they raffle it off. But if anybody couldn't afford the $2, they would still be welcome in Valda’s class.
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