DuBois occupational therapy students talk to seniors about preventing falls

OTA at Bennett's Valley

Presenting a fall prevention program at Bennett's Valley Senior Center are Penn State DuBois OTA students, left to right, Brittany Auman, Danielle Hodgdon, Hannah Schatz, Emily Schreiber and Katie Armagost.

Credit: Penn State

Honors students in the Penn State DuBois Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program recently presented potentially life-saving information to area seniors.

The sophomore-level honors students held a workshop focused on preventing falls at the Bennett's Valley Senior Center in Elk County as part of their honors option project.  The topic for the project was chosen because of the incredible importance fall prevention has for senior citizens, said LuAnn Demi, senior instructor in the Penn State DuBois OTA program. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits for older adults, the major cause of hip fractures and are responsible for more than half of fatal head injuries.

"Students were given the task of developing, planning and presenting a fall prevention program to a community group and they chose to present to members of the Bennett's Valley Senior Center," Demi said. "They contacted a local pharmacist to also provide information on the effect of various medications on increasing the risk of falls.  Students provided statistics, information on making your home safe and tips to decrease the likelihood of falling. This experience gave students the opportunity to plan a program, speak to the public and interact with community members while providing valuable education on fall prevention."

Students said the workshop benefitted them along with the senior citizens they worked with.

"I feel that opportunities like this give us the chance to put what we're learning to good use," said student Brittany Auman, of St. Marys. "It's nice to educate others on what we learn, especially when it comes to keeping them safe. This also opens our eyes to different populations. A presentation like this can be valuable for people at any age because younger people can pass the knowledge on or use it for themselves to prevent falls from happening."

Emily Schreiber, of Kersey, agreed, saying, "I believe from this experience I learned a lot about myself, but also, how fall prevention is a vital learning experience for older adults. Falls occur every day among older individuals, and with the knowledge obtained from the honors group, the individuals at the Bennett's Valley Senior Center can have a clearer understanding of different things they do, and how at risk they may be. I expanded upon my public speaking skills because of this event, and it really opened my eyes about occupational therapy, and how excited I am to gain my degree in such an amazing field."

Judy Woelfel, Bennett's Valley Senior Center site director, said the students provided valuable tips for areas seniors and she looks forward to the Penn State students returning to the center.

"They completed a great project, and the residents really enjoyed it," Woelfel said.  "It was a good review of things that senior citizens need to do to take care of themselves.  Everyone likes to be independent, and when someone falls and injures themselves, that takes away from that independence if they need care.  So, this is very important."