Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


Deaths from unintentional injuries are the seventh leading cause of death among older adults and falls account for the largest percentage of these deaths, with individuals aged ≥85 particularly vulnerable. Physical activity can reduce frailty and prevent falls; however, many elders are not physically active and women, ethnic minorities, and those with low education levels are the least active. Moreover, experiences of racial discrimination can lead to increased stress and unhealthy adaptive behaviors, and the cumulative effects of age and race related stressors have been shown to negatively impact the physical and mental health of elderly African Americans. Thus, participation in public health research has been deemed essential to identify effective interventions that will improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities among African American elders. We discuss a the creation and implementation of a fall-prevention exercise program created for older African Americans based in a Black Church in Philadelphia that has been a successful university/community partnership for the last 8 years. A qualitative evaluation of participant experience was carried out using focus groups to examine why there has been such a high degree of compliance. Key themes related to the program’s sustainability are physical and psychosocial benefits of attendance, fellowship among exercise participants and a therapeutic alliance with the instructor. It is our hope that this discussion and evaluation can inform other faith and community-based health promotion programs for minority elders, while also contributing to on-going efforts to reduce health disparities among at risk populations.