Participant Stories

Twyla Found Strength and Strategies for Preventing Falls


“I need to do it to stay strong. And doing that makes me feel better about myself.”

Twyla BarronTwyla Barron was reaching for a ripe, red tomato in her raised vegetable garden when her foot caught on the edging, causing her to fall backwards and land flat on ground. Picking a tomato was by no means a new experience for Twyla but this time it was a turning point. “I realized that  my entire body was weak from inactivity, and as a result, my shoulder took a jolt, and I mixed up my whole system.”

According to the CDC, every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the United States. Unfortunately, Twyla was one of them. The good news is that she took some important steps to protect herself from falling again.

After physical therapy that helped a little and a water aerobics class that wasn’t enough, Twyla went in search of something more. Juniper’s Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) class at ACE of Southwest Minnesota in Pipestone was her first stop. “I learned what’s important for people over 65 to know,” she says. “I learned about balance and how to use weights, and I was ready to take another step, leading me to Juniper’s A Matter of Balance class in the same location.”

After working in a sedentary clerical position for a school district for 30 years, Twyla admits that she needed to start moving again and focus on the challenges that often come with aging.

A Matter of Balance is an award-winning program designed for older adults to manage falls and increase activity levels, two things Twyla needed. In the class, she learned strategies to reduce her fear of falling and increase her level of activity. The goal is for participants to show improved balance, flexibility and strength—all things that Twyla wished she would have had in the garden while reaching for the tomato.

“My hands were weakening, and I started dropping things, so I knew I needed to keep my brain going,” Twyla says. She cites an exercise in her Matter of Balance class that helped with that. “We did a brain exercise of flipping one hand, while making a fist with the other. Then we switched hands, and did the same thing,” she says. “It’s really hard to concentrate, but it was helpful.” Twyla now knows to be more aware about what her hands and feet are doing and move with intention.

Other exercises in the class were also helpful. “We learned how to step over objects on the floor, and I’m now taking my instructor’s advice to look ahead into the distance when I walk instead of looking down. I realize that when I do that, I’m less likely to fall than if I’m looking down. It’s about being more aware of what can be dangerous.”

A Matter of Balance class was comfortable for Twyla, for a few reasons. “You won’t catch me dead in yoga pants,” she says with a chuckle while explaining why she prefers her class at ACE, over a gym filled with young, active people. “In my class, we dress like we do at home, and we learn and exercise next to people our own age.”

Twyla enjoyed her classmates too. “I liked the social side of the class,” she says. “While we’re doing repetitive exercise, we talk and laugh about how we’re doing, and we encourage each other. Sometimes our instructor played music to help motivate us, and that was fun too, along with having coffee after class.”

Instructor Jill Toering says Twyla and her classmates made good progress. “Participants started the class saying, ‘I don’t think I can do this, and I don’t think it will benefit me,’ but once they engaged in activities, it was evident they had more flexibility and strength. And they supported each other.”

With a commitment to implementing what she learned in her A Matter of Balance class, Twyla plans to keep moving, and practicing her moves. “I need to do it to stay strong,” she says with conviction. “And doing that makes me feel better about myself.”


Juniper’s A Matter of Balance class offers practical strategies for reducing your fear and risk of falling, while helping you building body strength. Learn how you can benefit from A Matter of Balance.

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