TAMPA, Fla. - At the of 78, Genevieve Zillich is walking steady and keeping her balance. She doesn't take her health for granted after suffering a severe fall a few years ago.
"I fell down my basement stairs and sustained serious injuries,” she told FOX 13. “I was in the ICU for three days.”
After that, she noticed a change in her stability.
"I'm hanging onto the grocery carts big time because I was just terribly unsteady," Zillich said.
She felt that older adults needed something to help avoid those falls.
"I thought everything out there is for young people,” she said. “What about us? I mean, really, what about us? Our lives are not over.”
So, she created the Gem Step. Gem is short for her name, Genevieve Marie. The step helps Zillich with her balance.
"It challenges you totally," she said.
Other seniors are challenging their minds and bodies by participating in the YMCA's Enhance Fitness class.
"Enhance Fitness is an evidence-based program for seniors that helps them get stronger and reduce their risk for falling," explained Summer Cruff, the YMCA director of community health.
Programs like those help prevent falls that can not only be fatal, but costly. One study showed that the U.S. spent $50 billion dollars on treatments for falls back in 2015.
"It's overwhelming when you fall. It's just the fact that it does something to you, even if you don't hurt yourself. Still, it does something to you and your confidence goes away and that hurts as you're getting older," said participant, Barbara Majeski.
But, the program is helping them move forward.
"Seniors are very afraid of falling and ending up not able to live alone,” Cruff said. “So, a program like this really helps them get stronger, stay independent and stay in their homes for as long as they can.”
Zillich said it's important not to let falls knock you down.
"You kind of have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and get back into life again,” she said.
Zillich is working with Clearwater company, CMS World Group, on the Gem step. She's hoping to get it into the hands of physical therapists to help other people.
The Enhance Fitness program is free from the YMCA. For more information, go to YMCATampaBay.org.