Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance

In August 2016, Marymount University, in partnership with Goodwin House, was awarded a two-year grant from the Administration for Community Living to increase the availability and accessibility of evidence-based falls prevention programs in Northern Virginia.  This grant resulted in the creation of the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance.  The mission of the alliance is to maximize independence and improve quality of life of older adults by reducing falls and fall-related injuries.

The SAIL Program was chosen as one of the evidence-based programs that would be implemented in northern Virginia.  We traveled to Virginia in September 2016 to provide the initial SAIL Program Leader training and have continued to serve as a consultant as SAIL was disseminated in this geographic region.

It is always a pleasure to conduct a return visit to observe how the SAIL Program is being implemented in a community.  We traveled to the Little River Glen Senior Center in Fairfax, VA in October 2018 to meet some of the beneficiaries of the grant.  Heather Ewan, CTRS is a Recreation Therapist, and works at Little River Glen to support several different falls prevention programs.  The SAIL Program was initiated in spring 2017, and Heather told us that SAIL quickly became so popular that they needed multiple instructors and sections of SAIL fitness classes.  Little River Glen currently has three different levels of SAIL classes:  a chair-based fitness class, a combined chair / standing fitness class, and a standing fitness class.  “We’ve really seen a difference on the participant’s fitness checks”, Heather reported.  “They are really motivated to attend the class when they see the results on their fitness checks”.  The fitness checks used in the SAIL Program are standardized measures of mobility, balance and strength.

One of the great pleasures of our day was meeting Millette Wardell, the SAIL Program Leader for the advanced SAIL fitness class that we observed.  Millette had quite a bit to say about the SAIL Program, so we will let her speak for herself!

When Little River Glen Senior Center launched the SAIL Program a few years ago, I was very interested to find what SAIL was all about.  The name itself:  Stay Active and Independent for Life, was enough for me to find out more about the program.  Those are powerful and positive words for the seniors who want to have a better health and fitness lifestyle!  When I found out that it’s an evidence-based fall prevention program, I knew it would be an outstanding program that’s specifically designed for the seniors.  I went to a SAIL class to observe.  The participants were having a great time!  I wanted to be a part of it!

As a group fitness instructor, my main focus is reaching out to senior centers.  As we get older, I want to continue to remind and offer the seniors a healthy fitness lifestyle.  SAIL is a great fitness program that’s fun and effective.

I was very pleased with the SAIL onsite training.  The leaders were very informative and very helpful.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being part of the SAIL Program is watching the participants improve their strength, balance, and endurance.  They are so inspiring!  They make me a better instructor for them.  Thank you for making me a part of a very successful program.

One of Millette’s participants in the SAIL fitness class shared with us how SAIL has changed her life.  “The SAIL fitness class benefits me from my neck to my toes”, says My-Hanh T. Pham.  “It exercises all of the muscles in my body.  I used to have bad posture and I walked with my head first.  Now I have better posture and my neck pain and headaches have decreased”.

The Little River Glen Senior Center is just one community that has benefited as a result of the initial grant from the Administration for Community Living.  A Regional Training Office was established as a result of the grant, and since August 2016 this office has held ten SAIL Program Leader trainings which have resulted in 180 community members achieving the designation of a SAIL Program Leader.

We spoke to Jennifer L. Tripken, Ed.D., CHES who is the Director of the Regional Training Office.  “SAIL has been well received in the community”, Jennifer told us.  “We currently have 25 organizations that are running SAIL Programs and we have a total of 60 SAIL Programs that have been established since we started in 2016.  Over 1,250 older adults have participated in a SAIL Program and this number is growing.”

Jennifer also asked that we acknowledge key champions for the evidence-based programs that are supported by the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance.  “Marymount University and the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance introduced the community to the SAIL Program and it truly was the work of the community to make SAIL the successful program it is today.  The staff at the Little River Glen Senior Center is fabulous and are champions for the SAIL Program.  They are a great model of an organization that has a high-functioning SAIL Program that has reduced falls risk and improved the quality of life for the older adults they serve.”

Thank you Millette, and the SAIL Program participants at Little River Glen Senior Center! We appreciate your willingness to share your story as a Spotlight on SAIL.

For more information about the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance  please visit their website at