A Columbia retirement home keeps seniors active to prevent suicides

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COLUMBIA - Following a suicide attempt Wednesday on Interstate 70 at the Providence Road overpass, the Terrace Retirement Community said it keeps its seniors social and active to prevent any suicidal thoughts.

"I have a wide variety of exercise classes," Terrace activity director Laura Reynolds said. "We do the salsa class. We do some Tai Chi. We do some balance and flexibility. We do some seated exercise."

Reynolds said she also teaches knitting classes, and the retirement community offers all kinds of board and card games to keep the senior active and interactive.

She says this is important because she does see seniors experience times of sadness and loneliness, which can lead to depression and potentially suicide.

"Sometimes people are depressed, and it's usually around the anniversary date of a wedding anniversary, birthday, death or around one of those life-changing events," Reynolds said.

The Center for Disease Control reported in 2012 that the rate of suicide for adults 75 years or older is 16.3 per one-hundred thousand, which is not too far behind the suicide rates for 15 to 24 year olds. That rate is 20 percent of all deaths annually.

Reynolds said she has not dealt with any suicide situations at the Terrace, but that's because the seniors have a lot of support there.

"When you're older and you're single, and your kids are on one coast or the other coast, and they're scattered, it makes it very difficult to maintain those relationships," Reynolds said. "But when you come live in a place like this, those relationships are instant."

Besides keeping an active and social lifestyle, the MU Wellness Resource Center said being upfront with friends who appear suicidal is a quick way to get them well.

"One of the best things you can do actually if you're wondering about a person and their safety is you can ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide," Kimi Nolte, the Wellness Resource Center suicide prevention graduate assitant said. "There's a misconception that causes people to think about it more, but in reality, it actually doesn't."

Nolte said the center is also trying to change the terminology when it comes to suicide.

"If a person does commit suicide, we actually use the terms 'die by suicide,'" Nolte said. "That's something we're really trying to change is the terminology surrounding suicide because 'commit' indicates it's illegal or a crime."

She says the police are trained and very capable of preventing acts of suicide. You can also call the National Crisis Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

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