From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Fit and Fall Proof helps thousands of Idaho seniors prevent injuries and build community

October 27, 2023
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Fit and Fall Proof is a program in our Public Health Division that improves the lives of Idahoans. This program works for seniors in our communities to help prevent injuries and the subsequent loss of independence. Class participants learn simple exercises to increase strength, balance, and endurance. That can help prevent accidental falls and tripping that are sometimes associated with age. Additional aims are to build connectedness and decrease isolation.

Fit and Fall Proof is an effective and efficient program. Approximately 130 low-cost or free Fit and Fall Proof class sites are supported throughout Idaho by health district coordinators and led by volunteers across all seven regions. Volunteer class leaders are recruited from communities and trained by Idaho health district coordinators and master trainers using the Fit and Fall Proof curriculum, which was developed by Idaho professionals. 

Growing this program is part of DHW’s 2024 Strategic Plan—Goal 2, Objective 2.3.4: Increase the number of Idahoans accessing the local Fit and Fall Proof courses offered across the state by seven percent by Sept. 30, 2024.

The current annual report for Fit and Fall Proof reported a total of 9,358 participants for the year. An increase will mean that more than 10,000 seniors will feel the benefits of this important—and fun!—program.

There was a time in 2020 and 2021 when there were concerns that Fit and Fall Proof wouldn’t survive the pandemic. However, we learned that the program’s community bond was so strong that even stay-at-home orders couldn’t keep some seniors away. Determined Fit and Fall Proof participants hosted classes in church parking lots and barns in order to adhere to COVID guidelines. As of our latest annual report, Fit and Fall Proof attendance is climbing back toward its pre-pandemic numbers.

A recent study, “Exploring the Impact of the Idaho Fit and Fall Proof™ Program on Feelings of Isolation and Loneliness Post-COVID-19 Pandemic,”  was completed by Hailey Merrick, a graduate student at Boise State University with the Center for the Study of Aging. The center is the contracted third-party evaluator for Fit and Fall Proof and has been since its beginning.

Sarah Toevs, the center’s director, oversees this work. Merrick’s research examines the impact of participation in Fit and Fall Proof on feelings of isolation and connectedness. It provided a qualitative survey to participants at all seven health districts in Idaho, and nearly 500 participants responded. Reponses confirm what we already suspected: this program provides a vital sense of connection and community for senior citizens in Idaho.

We read a lot of reports in our work, but reading excerpts from this one is likely to leave you a little misty-eyed and give a boost to your day:

  • “Thank you for providing this service, it is vital to our rural communities and senior health”
  • “When I started I couldn't lift a cast iron skillet or balance with my eyes closed. Now I can. Very important instruction with positive social interaction.”
  • “I love my exercises and being with my friends.”
  • “People smile at you. At the gym, they don’t. My husband passed away in-between times and now I live alone. FFP seems more important now.”

Several DHW staff in the Division of Public Health are responsible for the operation and success of this program: Health Program Manager Amanda Rodgers oversees the program (originally created with support of Get Healthy Idaho Program Manager Katie Lamansky). Health district coordinators manage volunteer class leaders and trainings. Health program specialist Brooke Ambrose works part time on FFP, and Risk Reduction and Prevention Section Manager Nicole Rogers and Community Health Bureau Chief Jack Miller have supported activities to keep the program going.

Thank-you all for making a difference for Idaho’s seniors and for helping DHW meet this important strategic plan objective.

I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend!

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at 

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