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Balance in Older Adults: A Guide On How To Improve It

As we get older, our body doesn’t quite “behave” in the way that it used to. It can be tougher to get around and do activities. Another thing that can start to fail us as we get older if we are not careful is our balance.

In addition to chronic illness, balance in older adults can become a struggle for many reasons including:

  • Arthritis
  • Vision impairment
  • Cardivoscular disease
  • Medication side effects

Imbalance in older adults can leave them more prone to falls which, at their age, can come with significant medical consequences.

At Shepherd Premier Senior Living in Crystal Lake, Illinois, our team of experts will help your loved one keep their mind and body sharp by providing our state-of-the-art amenities and our genuine passion for serving the elderly. Keep reading to learn tips on how to improve balance in older adults.

Why is Balance in Older Adults Important?

When it comes to going about our daily lives, we don’t think about how balance plays a role in everything we do. While balance is an important aspect of physical activities such as exercising and yoga, it is also crucial for basic tasks such as simply walking and moving around.

As we age, a person’s balance can change for several reasons including:

  • Changes in depth perception
  • Reduction in bone and muscle mass
  • Slowed reflexes

For older people, a change in balance isn’t just an inconvenience, it can also be potentially deadly. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 30 million falls are reported every year from older adults. Of the over 30 million reported falls, over 30,000 of them result in death with roughly 1 in 5 falls resulting in a serious injury.

Signs and Symptoms of Bad Balance

Experiencing a worsening balance doesn’t just happen instantly, your balance will typically slowly start to deteriorate over time. For those who are older, or for those who are looking after a family member or loved one, knowing some of the signs and symptoms that indicate their balance is worsening can be important in addressing the issues before it continues to get worse and the consequences become potentially more severe.

Some signs and symptoms that an older person’s balance might be getting worse include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling as though you are going to fall
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Struggling to walk normally
  • Lightheadedness
  • Experiencing a floating sensation
  • Changes in heart rate or blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feelings of fear, panic, or anxiety for no reason

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it could be a sign of balance issues. When not addressed properly, even professionally or with home remedies, balance issues can lead to potentially deadly falls.

How Can Older Adults Improve Their Balance?

Improving your balance is easier than you think and it can even be done in the comfort of your own home. There are many things that you can do as you get older to proactively get ahead of any potential imbalance issues you might experience.

Physical Exercise

Remaining as active as we can as we get older can help keep our balance sharp. The best thing is you don’t even have to have a rigorous exercise routine. Keep it simple and make sure you aren’t doing too much or overextending yourself.

Simple activities such as going on walks or participating in a yoga class can be fun and healthy activities to do while also improving your balance. Regular exercise and physical therapy can greatly reduce the chances of falling.

If you are thinking about starting a new exercise routine though, you might want to consult with your primary care physician beforehand to make sure you won’t run into any issues.

Mental Exercise

Balance isn’t just a physical thing, there’s a mental component to balance as well. That’s why it is important that in addition to keeping ourselves physically sharp that we keep ourselves mentally sharp as well.

By staying sharp mentally, you will have a better feel for your surroundings. By having a better feel for your surroundings, you can proactively avoid situations that might lead to a fall.

Participating in activities that focus on improving our connection between mind and body such as yoga, tai chi, or mindfulness can keep us sharp both physically and mentally as we get older.

See Your Doctor Regularly

Sometimes balance issues are beyond our control. They can be the result of a medical condition or be caused by certain medications. Regular checkups with your doctor can help address any balance issues you might be dealing with before they get worse.

If your balance issues are the result of an underlying condition, your doctor may be able to treat the underlying issue which, in turn, can improve your balance. If your balance issues are occurring on your own, your doctor can recommend safe ways to help improve your balance at home.

Benefits of Improving Balance

Improving your balance as you get older can not only help keep your risk of falling at a minimum, but it can also improve your overall quality of life. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that come along with maintaining a good balance when we get older.

Keep Our Independence Longer

One of the biggest reasons why people have to go to a senior living facility when they get older is because they simply cannot take care of themselves and living independently can pose a great risk to their health.

If a family member or loved one is not able to move around well on their own they put themselves at a greater risk of having an accident or falling. The longer you can maintain a good balance and be able to move around on your own without struggling, the longer you can maintain your independence.

Build Up and Increase Strength

By continuing to stay active as a way to improve your balance, you will also be building up and increasing the strength in other parts of your body as well. Not only will this give you more energy to go about your day, but staying in shape and building up strength can help reduce the risk of conditions and ailments that typically impact older people such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Build Confidence

When we have better control over our mind and body it gives us the confidence to go about our day and not worry if we are going to fall or have an accident.

Having good balance can help with better overall coordination which can reduce the chances of falling. With the confidence of knowing that you can go about your day without having to worry about you will lose your balance and falling, you can make the most of life and enjoy it to the fullest.

Improve Overall Health

Exercise and working on your balance aren’t just great ways to reduce the risk of a fall, they can also help with your overall health as well. Exercise and balance training are great ways to improve health and mobility while increasing your day-to-day safety.

Are There Things I Can Do At Home To Help Improve My Balance?

If you are looking for ways to improve your balance, there are exercises and things you can do in the comfort of your own home to help with your balance. Before doing any of the below exercises though it is important to consult with your doctor to make sure these exercises are safe to perform on your own.

The Tightrope

This exercise requires no equipment at all and can be done pretty easily. All you have to do is hold your arms out straight from your sides, keeping them parallel to the floor, Once you have done that you walk in a straight line, pausing for a second every time you lift your foot off the ground. Do this for 15 to 20 steps while focusing on a spot off in the distance to help with your balance.

Wall Pushups

To do a wall pushup you face the wall at arm’s length and lean forward, gently placing your palms on the wall. While keeping your feet firmly on the floor you bring your body toward the wall while pushing yourself back to the point where your arms are stretched out straight.

Balancing Wand

Pick an item around the house that you want to use as your “wand”. It can be a cane, umbrella, broom, or any other item that can be used as a wand. Hold the item you chose for as long as you can while alternating hands from time to time so each side of the body can get equal attention.

Get Help With Balance in Older Adults at Shepherd Premier Senior Living

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Despite our best efforts, a time comes in every person’s life when they simply can no longer take proper care of themselves. When that time comes it is important that your family member or loved one go somewhere that offers the care that they need.

At Shepherd Premier Senior Living, we treat everyone like they are our family members. With facilities throughout Illinois, you can have your loved one live at one of our facilities and still be close enough to drop in and visit whenever you want.

For more information about our senior living and memory care facilities, or to take a tour of one of our facilities in your area, contact us today.