Balance for Older Adults

16 Dec, 2019

In Australia the rate of falls resulting in hospitalisation increased by 3% each year between 2002 and 2013, with about 100,000 people aged 65 and over being hospitalised due to a fall in 2012-2013 (1). There are many studies that show evidence of a direct link between balance and risk of falls (2).

Balance is defined as a person’s ability to maintain their centre of gravity over their base of support.

Balance can be divided into 2 types:

  • Static Balance – is the ability for the body to maintain a stable position whilst stationary eg. Standing
  • Dynamic Balance – is the ability for the body to maintain a stable position whilst moving eg. Walking

There are 3 systems within the body that work together with our brain to maintain balance:

  • Visual System: Visual input allows us to see where our body is in relation to our environment.
  • Vestibular System: Located in the inner ear, the semicircular canals detect rotational movement, while the otolith organs detect linear movement and gravity. Balance disorders caused by problems in the vestibular system are often accompanied by dizziness or vertigo.
  • Proprioceptive System: Sensory receptors that detect stretch and pressure are located in the skin, muscles and joints. These send signals to our brain to help determine where our body is in space.

The ability of the body to maintain balance can be disrupted by damage to one or more of these systems through disease, injury, or the process of aging. Due to the complexity of the balance system it can be challenging to identify the underlying cause of imbalance.

Age related degeneration, as well as various diseases more common with old age, can affect all systems involved in balance. If you are feeling unsteady you might be fearful of performing certain activities.

Poor balance often leads to inactivity due to fear of falling. As a result, you stop challenging your balance systems and muscles which can make everyday tasks such as getting up from a chair or walking more difficult. This can further decrease your confidence leading to a cycle of inactivity.

Programs consisting of balance and strength exercises, as well as exercises that challenge the vestibular system, have been found to be an effective method of improving balance control and confidence in older adults living in the community (3). Step training has also been shown to significantly increase balance and decrease falls among older adults by approximately 50% (4). For conditions affecting the inner ear, vestibular rehabilitation therapy can be used.

How can we help?

Physiotherapists are equipped with the skills and knowledge to conduct a thorough assessment of your balance, mobility and risk of falling. By identifying the factors causing your reduced balance, we can create a program targeted at improving your balance control and reducing your risk of falls.

If you are having frequent falls or are feeling unsteady on your feet, give us a call at Gen Physio. We have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.

Balance for older adults



  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). Trends in hospitalisations due to falls by older people, Australia 2002–03 to 2012–13. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. Neville, C et al. (2019). Lower-Limb Factors Associated with Balance and Falls in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Clinical Synthesis. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. doi: 10.7547/19-143.
  3. Hafström, A., Malmström, E. M., Terdèn, J., Fransson, P. A., & Magnusson, M. (2016). Improved Balance Confidence and Stability for Elderly After 6 Weeks of a Multimodal Self-Administered Balance-Enhancing Exercise Program: A Randomized Single Arm Crossover Study. Gerontology & geriatric medicine, 2, 2333721416644149. doi:10.1177/2333721416644149
  4. Okubo Y, Schoene D, Lord SR. (2016). Step training improves reaction time, gait and balance and reduces falls in older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2017;51:586-593.


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