Aging and balance

Growing older comes with numerous advantages, like gaining valuable experience in decision making. However, it also brings certain challenges, including a heightened risk of chronic diseases and reduced mobility.

Two older people walking and holding hands.
Photo: Pexels/Noelle Otto.

One common issue for older adults is struggling with balance, making it tough to avoid a fall. This is especially problematic because many seniors are more fragile. As people age, the chance of developing conditions like osteoporosis increases, making bones weaker. A simple stumble that might have caused minor injuries before can now turn into a major problem, with the risk of fractures and broken hips.

When planning health care for yourself or a loved one, prioritize improving your balance. Two issues need to be addressed — the physical surroundings and the physical fitness of the individual. Many of us are unaware of the steps we can take in our environment to prevent falls, regardless of age. Here's a checklist that's crucial for considering ways to prevent a fall:

  • Make sure all walkways and hallways are well lit.
  • Throw rugs need to be anchored or removed.
  • Handrails should be installed at all stairways, including steps into the house.
  • Stairways and steps should have non-slip strips securely attached.
  • Handrails are available in bathrooms near bathtubs and toilets.
  • Bathtubs and showers need non-slip strips on the flooring.

A frequently neglected aspect of balance control involves enhancing the stability of older adults. Once balance concerns in the home are identified, there are physical activities that older individuals can engage in to enhance their balance.:

  • Standing near a chair, table or wall, practice standing on one foot and then the other. Balance as long as you can, without wobbling, and try to increase the time you can do this.
  • Sit in a chair and stand up without holding on to the arms. Try this several times every day until you can do it easily.
  • Walk around your house as slowly as you can without losing your balance. Your goal should be to keep walking slowly without losing your balance.
  • Sign up for physical activities such as yoga, tai chi, or programs designed to improve balance like A Matter of Balance. Michigan State University Extension offers many fall prevention programs in person and online.

Trouble maintaining balance does not signify the conclusion of an active life for older adults. Explore the tips presented in this article, establish goals to enhance your home's safety, and create a physical activity plan to boost your balance. For more information on healthy lifestyles, including healthy aging, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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