S.A.I.L.  Stay Active and Independent for Life

by Robin Bush, ISR Communications

“The most important thing to me as I age is to remain healthy, active, and independent, for my own sake and those I love.  It’s my responsibility to take good care of myself.”   

– Whidbey grandfather

Wellness for seniors goes beyond the absence of sickness and trauma.  Being “well” includes staying active and independent for as long as possible, and one of the most important things we can do for our wellness is to reduce our risk of falling.

Some of us believe falling is an inevitable outcome of aging.  However, there is abundant evidence falling is not inevitable.  We do not have to fall.  Falls are predictable, but they are also preventable.  People believe their safety and security are found at home, yet statistically, our homes can be dangerous.  75% of falls happen at home, with only 10% outside the home.  So, how can you prevent yourself or someone you love from falling?

There is an easy, fun, educational, exercise-based fall prevention class offered through WhidbeyHealth/E.M.S. called S.A.I.L.  It was developed by the W.A. State Department of Health and has proven to decrease falls, keeping seniors independent and able to safely age in place.  S.A.I.L. transitioned due to COVID to Zoom, allowing participants to be “in-class” from wherever they are.  Each class includes warm-up and cool-down, training in balance, strength, aerobics, and general education to help you assess your risk of falls and what might predispose you to fall.

S.A.I.L. is an eight-week, sixteen-session class for participants 65+.  Classes meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12-1 or 1:15 – 2:15.  The cost is $40.  After that, participants are welcome to continue the class for as long as they like at $40/month.  There are periodic assessments so participants and the instructor can track progress.  People who take the class find they become healthier and happier, decrease their risk of falls, and even develop a connection with the other class participants, which helps reduce feelings of isolation. 

The program also partners with Hearts and Hammers to place grab bars in home bathrooms (for free for those who qualify).  Grab bars significantly reduce the risk of falls in the bathroom, a common place for falls.  How to make your home safer is an important part of the class.

Sharing information about the S.A.I.L. program represents a community education collaboration between skilled nursing facilities, the fire department, WhidbeyHealth Medical Center/E.M.S., Island County Public Health, physical therapy offices, and senior centers.   Falls represent a significant portion of 911 calls on Whidbey.  Nationally, one in five falls causes serious injury requiring hospitalization resulting in high costs for the patient, family members, Medicare/insurance companies, and community services.  Together S.A.I.L and other community health measures have reduced the 911 calls for falls from 20% to 13% over the past three years.  That saves an average of 600 response calls each year.  Taking the S.A.I.L. class not only helps you, but it also helps our community health services.

W.A. State Department of Health has a guide to S.A.I.L. available on the internet by searching the Washington Dept of Health S.A.I.L. guide.  It provides “information for adults ages 65 and older that will help you stay active and independent for life, and help you prevent falls and fall-related injuring – a major threat to independent living.”

For more information, contact Robert May, Lead Paramedic/Community Outreach Coordinator,

WhidbeyHealth EMS, at mayrob@whidbeyhealth.org or 360-914-3193