Solemn silence cloaked the room as Elder Emma Reelis asked for blessing on the collaborative efforts of participants gathered for the recent Indigenous Fall Prevention Symposium.
The event brought together members of Indigenous communities and professionals who work with them at the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation on Monday, June 11. Sponsored by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the symposium explored how to prevent falls among Indigenous older adults.
Double the rate
Approximately 40 per cent of Indigenous adults aged 55 and older experience falls. That rate is almost double compared to the general population. The same is true for fall-related death rates. They are twice that of the non-Indigenous population.
“Things are different for us,” Elder Emma said.
She openly shared the painful life struggles she experienced growing up as an Inuit girl in Labrador through to the discrimination she encounters today.
Sadly, her story is not unique.
Elder Emma is well aware of the violence and the social, economic, health and wellness challenges Indigenous Peoples face through her work with the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre.
“I’m driven to help others,” Elder Emma said. “I’d like to be able to do more.”
Informing the collective
Whether it’s fall prevention or any other type of support, she is regularly called on to care for people, especially those in her local community.
Her position as vice-president and past president of the centre is enabling her to do just that.
“Many risk factors for experiencing a fall are preventable.”
While she intends to take learnings from the symposium to apply in her work at the centre, the topic also has a personal appeal to her: she’s undergone knee and back surgery and has to be careful moving around.
“We know that many risk factors for experiencing a fall are preventable,” said Natasha Kuran of PHAC.
“This symposium enables us to share knowledge and experiences between Indigenous community members and fall prevention researchers and professionals. This event will help inform our collective work moving forward.”
The Indigenous Fall Prevention Symposium was held in conjunction with the Fourth Canadian Fall Prevention Symposium, co-hosted by the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation in St. John’s from June 11-12.