Why Do Older People Lose Their Balance (And How Can They Improve It)?

Losing your balance can be a frightening experience, especially for older adults! Even so, changes in balance are a perfectly normal, natural part of the aging process. While experiencing a fall can be scary and unexpected, it’s important to recognize that you aren’t alone.

The first step toward facing your fear is understanding why these falls occur. With the right knowledge, you can make lifestyle changes that will keep you safe and active for years to come!

The reasons why older people lose their balance are complex but fascinating. Continue reading to learn more about the changes you may be facing during the aging process. We’ll share our top tips for overcoming changes in balance and leading a safer, more confident life.

Why Do Seniors Lose Their Balance?

There are many reasons why seniors lose their balance while walking. According to the National Institute on Aging, one-third of senior citizens experience at least one fall each year. Luckily, there are many ways to improve your balance to reduce the likelihood of these accidents. Many of them are fun and social!

If you notice a sudden change in your ability to balance, your first step should always be to visit your doctor. Your doctor can help rule out underlying medical issues and connect you with professionals who can help.

While many mobility issues are age-related, some have underlying medical causes. It’s always best to rule out ear infections, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, or low blood pressure, which can all affect your balance. Fluctuations in blood sugar can also impact balance on a short-term basis.

In general, however, many people give inner-ear-related issues too much credit. In reality, a combination of cognitive and physical factors play the largest role in declining balance skills.

Balance and the Brain

Barring any underlying conditions, shifting pathways in the brain are often the cause of general balance problems. Many body systems are responsible for the mechanisms that allow us to balance. Your brain is the control panel that keeps these complex systems functioning.

When we’re young, we learn new things every day, from general knowledge to physical skills. As we age, we build our knowledge base less and less. Instead, we rely on skills we already have to go about our tasks of daily living.

The less we use specific skills, the weaker the brain’s pathways become. Think of those connections as woodland paths that become overgrown over time. The longer you go between visits to that part of the woods, the harder it is to find the trail. You may trip over those weeds and brambles in the meantime.

Balance and the Body

Traumatic experiences have the power to rewire our brains in subtle but significant ways. If you’ve had a fall, your brain may adjust to protect you, making you more cautious. This shift tends to change how you walk and approach challenges in your environment.

You might also become less active out of fear of experiencing future falls. Over time, this can weaken synapses and the muscle systems responsible for keeping you upright. You may experience lower endurance, which can make the body tired. A tired body is more prone to falls, as limbs become shaky and brains become distracted.

A loss of balance is a natural component of the aging process. Brains and bodies need extra support to maintain the skills they’ve relied on for their whole lives. Other factors, such as age-related hearing and vision loss, also play a role.

The more you practice these skills, the clearer these pathways become!

Ways to Improve Balance as You Age

A group of older adults participates in a senior yoga class to improve their balance Some people struggle with balance more than others, but all older adults can benefit from using their brains and bodies more as they age. The goal is to keep synapses active, retain muscle strength, and maintain endurance.

Consider engaging in safe but challenging activities that require active problem-solving, such as:

  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Dance classes or social dancing
  • Daily walks over various terrain
  • Taking the stairs whenever possible
  • Group exercise classes
  • Swimming or aqua aerobics

It’s understandable to feel nervous about trying a new activity, especially if you’ve experienced a recent injury. Finding a community or leaning on your support system can help! You might wish to seek out a dedicated class for seniors. Try to connect with an instructor experienced in working with an aging population.

Another approach is to connect with a friend or loved one and plan to go for a regular health walk. Taking a short stroll around the block is a pleasant way to practice mobility skills. Over time, you’ll feel bolder, more confident, and steadier on your feet.

Maintain Your Balance with NexStride

Sometimes, the reason why older people lose their balance is an inability to cue the next step in the process. If you use a mobility device, you might be an excellent candidate for a cueing system. These research-backed systems deliver visual and auditory cues that help your brain understand how, when, and where to move.

We have experts on staff that help seniors assess their options and find out if NexStride is right for them. Use the chat function in the bottom right corner or call 805-242-8015 to talk to someone today!

You can also check out our testimonials and Learn more about how the NexStride system can transform your life as you age.



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