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Balancing Learning and Community

  • By: Elijah Oates
  • Published:
Taylor University Entrance Wall

For over a year, trampolines have brought seniors from the Upland community together and helped them stay healthy.

In the fall of 2017, Exercise Science majors Sara Bergen and Rachel Breuer originally began this project on balance for a Research Methods class. Thanks to the hard work of Bergen and Breuer, as well as a generous grant from the Women’s Giving Circle, the project has turned into a full-scale trampoline training class for elderly locals that works to improve their balance and keep them active.

The class itself occurs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with five 20-minute sessions each day. During each class session, approximately 40 participants work through different balance exercises on the trampolines, such as standing on one leg, shifting their weight, and raising their knees in the air as high as they can.

Dr. Brad Kendall of the Kinesiology department, who supervises Bergen and Breuer, said helping these community members improve their balance is all about safety. “Falls are one of the highest medical costs in older adults. Fall risk and falls are actually increasing across the population.”

The girls designed their experiment around improving balance to prevent falls in older people, and they incorporated the trampolines to further increase balance gains. “Trampoline training has been shown to improve balance in other populations, but not in the [elderly] population that needs balance the most. Our purpose was to see if trampoline training could help improve the balance of 60- to 80-year-olds,” said Bergen

Not only does the project serve to increase safety among the older Upland population, it’s been providing other health benefits as well. “Even if they don’t improve balance,” said Bergen, “they’re at least being active and doing cardio and increasing muscle. That’s super exciting and important.”

Each participant fills out an activity log, and outside of the trampoline class, Bergen said, a lot of them are not very active. However, through this class, numerous participants have cited increased strength and stability. She recalled one participant who no longer had to hold the side rails when he walked on the treadmill. Bergen believes that creating a space for the participants to be healthy and active has been a huge blessing to the community.

Even beyond health benefits, the program has allowed Bergen and Breuer to bring joy to a typically unreached demographic in a new way. “[The participants] don’t want the program to end,” said Kendall. “They’re bringing friends who want to start … They’re loving it. I saw a few of our participants praying together after class. They’re interacting even more than we realize.”

Not only is the trampoline training having an impact on the community, it’s also having an impact on Bergen and Breuer. “Working with the elderly population has helped me refine my skills, which will benefit me as I work with patients in the future,” said Breuer. “It has given me a desire to listen to people’s needs and work together to find a solution for unanswered questions.”

The entire project has been exceedingly applicable to everyone involved. Both Bergen and Breuer have a deep care for both the research and the people who come to the classes. They are fully committed to their work, and that’s what’s needed for good research, according to Kendall.