The best New Year’s resolutions are ones that make our collective lives better.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to add to your resolution list this year, consider becoming A Matter of Balance volunteer coach. It can add meaning and purpose to your life – and quite literally add years to the lives of others.

Chances are you know someone who has fallen or who is afraid of falling.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence, and generate enormous economic and personal costs.

However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Through practical lifestyle adjustments and evidence-based falls prevention programs, like A Matter of Balance, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.

Each year, about $50 billion is spent on non-fatal fall injuries of adults 65 and older, and $754 million is spent on fatal falls. As the number of Americans 65 and older grows, we can expect the number of fall injuries, and the cost to treat these injuries, to soar.

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annual cost report shows the total cost of falls in Michigan was $1.5 billion.

The CDC direct medical costs figures do not account for the long-term effects of these injuries, such as disability, dependence on others, lost time from work and household duties, and reduced quality of life.

Falls can be deadly, debilitating and financially devastating. The good news is most, if not all, falls can be prevented. And you can be a part of the solution.

Falls prevention courses such as A Matter of Balance, an evidence-based course designed and tested by at the Roybal Center at Boston University, are proven to help. Class participants learn to manage their concerns about falls, increase activity, view falls as controllable, and make changes to reduce fall risks at home.

The Area Agency on Aging is hosting a training session for A Matter of Balance volunteer coaches later this month. Coaches help class participants become more confident about managing falls, help to identify ways to reduce falls and lead exercises to help increase strength and balance.

Volunteer coaches receive eight hours of training, staff support and materials to enable them to successfully lead classes in their community.

There is no cost for the training or supplies. A commitment to lead at least one class in your community after completing the training is the only return asked of volunteer coaches.

Requirements for coaches include good communication and interpersonal skills; enthusiasm, dependability and a willingness to lead a small group of older adults; and an ability to lead low- to moderate-level exercise.

The upcoming volunteer coach training session will be from 1-5 p.m. Jan. 21 and 23 at the Region IV AAA, 2900 Lakeview Ave., St. Joseph.

To register for the training, or for more information, contact Julie Schwarz, education coordinator and Matter of Balance master trainer, at 982-7759 or julieschwarz@areaagencyonaging.org.

If you’re concerned about falling and would like to participate in an upcoming course, call Julie to learn when the next one will be in your community.

Christine Vanlandingham is chief operating officer of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Saturday in The Herald-Palladium.