How can older adults improve their balance and reduce falls?

Anthony Cirillo
Geriatric Medicine
According to Swiss researchers, music therapy can be of great help to older people. Taking part in classes that involve music and rhythmic exercise may improve the balance and walking skills and reduce the number of falls for older adults.

More than 130 seniors were tested in walking and balance skills after taking part in a music-education program called Dalcroze eurhythmics. Participants, all of whom had a history of problems with falls, fell fewer times over the test period.

Greater improvements occurred in the test group that took the class once a week for six months. The program involves free-form movement to improvised piano music and gradually adds other elements of movement and manipulation.

Study participants continued to show improvement in balance and walking ability six months after the study ended. The findings suggest that social dancing or other activities that challenge balance and require continuous adjustments to the environment could have a positive effect on older adults.

Older Adults can benefit greatly from Core and Balance Training. Walking engages the core muscular as well has the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex. The Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex is made up of the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine, the pelvic girdle, and the hip joint. All used for standing and walking. All these many joints must be stabilized by the core muscular. Remember the saying “You are as strong as you weakest link”. Core and balance work hand in hand.

One very easy way to work on balance is to stand up, do a posture check, and find a focal point to keep your eyes on, draw in your belly button, accept your weight onto one leg and lift the opposite foot “just” up on the floor. Stand there for a count of 3, return you foot to the floor and switch legs. If you are unstable and wobbly, know that with your raised foot you can tap your toe down to stabilize yourself. You can also stand near a chair or counter where you may place you hand so you feel safe.

Try this exercise for 10 reps (5 on each leg). After you master this exercise, you're ready to progress on to a more challenging exercise.

Improving balance to reduce the risk of falling will require a training program that not only includes exercises that test stability but that also targets your core musculature. Older adults do not typically have good core stability. Your core is your center of gravity. Balance training should test your limits of stability without losing control of your center of gravity (your core). Having a strong core is important for older adults, can help improve balance and reduce your risk for injury.

The muscles of the core are divided into two categories; the stabilizing system and the movement system. The stabilizers are responsible for the stability of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. The stabilizers should be trained before training the movement system. You need to be able to stabilize in order to move correctly. If the movement system is strong and the stabilizers are weak we put ourselves at risk for injury.

Older adults should have their risk of fall assessed by a professional and then have a program developed to decrease that risk, if one exists. If the risk is minimal the older adult should engage in a training program that progresses as their ability progresses adding reactive training necessary for balance recovery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.