COVID-19 put a stop to in-person meetings and in-person programming that Crow Wing Energized has continuously offered.

Local Stay Active and Independent for Life leaders, Valerie Jones and Deb Bergstrom, stepped up to offer their once in-person classes virtually. Because of their flexibility and creativity, evidence-based programs are still being made available for free to community members not only in Crow Wing County but across Minnesota.

Stay Active and Independent for Life is a strength, balance and fitness program for adults 65 and older. Performing exercises that improve strength, balance and fitness is the single most important activity adults can do to stay active and reduce their chances of falling. The entire curriculum of activities in the Stay Active and Independent for Life program can help improve strength and balance, if done regularly. This class is one hour long, three times a week for a total of eight weeks. Participants are encouraged to attend at least 1-2 classes a week to see the benefits.

Crow Wing County is an aging community with a projected 30% of the demographic being 65 and older by 2027. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Through these evidence-based programs and partnerships, the number of falls amongst seniors can be dramatically reduced.



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Since falls continue to be a concern even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Stay Active and Independent for Life leaders decided to test out their first-ever virtual program classes. These classes provide skills and social connectedness to participants and increased accessibility.

“The biggest benefit of a virtual class is that living miles away does not prevent folks from attending the class, since they are exercising with us in their own homes,” said Valerie Jones, Stay Active and Independent for Life leader. “We have several new class members who live 70 -100 miles or more from Brainerd/Baxter who attend our virtual class.”

Valarie Jones, Stay Active and Independent for Life instructor. Submitted photo
Valarie Jones, Stay Active and Independent for Life instructor. Submitted photo

Many participants not only join the program to reduce the risk of falls but also to build connection, which has become even more important for those who have been advised to limit social interactions during the pandemic.

RELATED: Crow Wing Energized: Coping with the new norm

Participant Brenda Johnson said that she makes sure to make it to class because she loves seeing all the participants and leaders. “My biggest motivator (for attending class) is that I don't want to miss seeing all the people,” she said.

Deb Bergstrom, co-leader with Jones, said the class is beneficial for her as well as for the participants. “Coaching gives me a chance to keep myself active, but it is so rewarding to know that you are hopefully making a difference in your participants daily lives,” she said. “This class has been so rewarding for so many reasons! Many in the class will tell us how they have improved in balance, exercise and strength. Added blessings are the new and old friendships that have been formed.”

Deb Bergstrom, Stay Active and Independent for Life instructor. Submitted photo
Deb Bergstrom, Stay Active and Independent for Life instructor. Submitted photo



Participants like Brenda Johnson have had positive feedback from their physicians.

“A few years ago, when I was preparing for serious back surgery, my surgeon was overwhelmed with my overall health and asked what I did for exercise,” Brenda Johnson said. “He wished all of his patients would attend…SAIL.”

Brenda Johnson, Stay Active and Independent for Life participant. Submitted photo
Brenda Johnson, Stay Active and Independent for Life participant. Submitted photo

Are you someone who loves to share your love of health and activity with your friends and family? Are you recently retired and looking to give something back to your community? If so, becoming a trained Stay Active and Independent for Life leader would be a great fit for you! We are looking for community members who want to lead online classes on Zoom. Leading this type of class is very fulfilling; you get more than you give.

There is an upcoming free online training through the Central Minnesota Council on Aging. Training will be from 1-4 p.m. Dec. 15-17.

If you are interested in joining a class as a participant check our Crow Wing Energized Website under Events. New 2021 classes will be posted mid-December. Visit our website at http://crowwingenergized.org/events/.