BCC’s Stay Active and Independent for Life Classes Prove Successful

Group of people exercising in a classroom

SAIL program, presented by BCC's Physical Therapist Assistant Program, helps to reduce risk of falls for people 65 and older

PITTSFIELD, MA — After Berkshire Community College's (BCC) first "Stay Active and Independent for Life" (SAIL) program was held last spring, the response from the community was so positive that the College's Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program decided to offer it again this semester. The free series of classes, designed for people 65 and older interested in feeling better and staying active, is held twice a week for 12 weeks. Twelve participants are enrolled, including five who returned from the spring program.

SAIL is an evidence-based program that partners with educational institutions, community centers and health care facilities. The outcomes of the spring session showed measurable improvement across all participants, with consistent attendance throughout all 12 weeks. "We found the participants had fallen less, felt more confident increasing their activity levels, wanted to share and continue this course with friends and felt more satisfied with their lives," Darroch said. After administering standardized testing that assesses strength, endurance, balance and agility — all of which have been found to correlate with risk of fall — all 12 participants saw improvements in these areas.

I'm 80 years old. I signed up for SAIL initially because I had had a couple of falls and was worried about my balance. This is not a one-size-fits-all class, so any fitness level can succeed in improving. I noticed improvement after a few weeks.

SAIL participant, Lee McClelland

McClelland called Darroch "an energetic, enthusiastic, funny leader" and said the participants laugh a lot. "Since I live alone, I really enjoy the social interaction with the other participants," she said. "We all encourage each other and have a great time. I suggested to two of my friends, one with early Parkinson's, that they join, and they love it. This is really a fantastic opportunity for us elders."

At BCC, instructional training was provided for all second-year PTA students, three alumni and one faculty member, and the students have been teaching components of the class this semester. PTA Program Coordinator Michele Darroch said she is finishing a "train the trainer" course in an effort to increase the number of SAIL instructors in the Berkshires. “The long-term goal is that some of the alumni will offer additional courses elsewhere in the community," she said.