Explainer: why does our balance get worse as we grow older?

Original post from The Conversation

‘…………….  Professor in Ageing and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University

All of us have taken a tumble at some point in our lives. But as we grow older, the risks associated with falling over become greater: we lose physical strength and bone density, our sense of balance deteriorates and we take longer to recover from a fall. Alarmingly, this process begins around the age of 25. The reasons for this are varied and complex, but by understanding them better, we can find ways to mitigate the effects of old age.

The first thing to know is that the human body is inherently unstable, with a small base relative to its height. Maintaining an upright position and moving from place to place while staying balanced is a continual challenge for our bodies. Our success depends on the well-being and integration of many different systems within our bodies.

There are three main systems that provide us with the sensory information about our bodies and the surrounding environment that we need to maintain balance. These are the visual (eyes), vestibular (inner ear and semi-circular canals) and somotosensory (sensation feedback from joints in ankles, knees, spine and neck) systems. To maintain balance, our brains must rapidly and continuously integrate and then process the sensory information received from these systems, and this integration is often worse in older people who are prone to falls.

This unconscious process prompts finely tuned, co-ordinated responses from our motor and muscle systems. These responses are produced as a result of planned and unplanned challenges to our stability – such as bending over to tie your shoelace, or recovering from a playful push from a friend – which make up our everyday movement patterns.

Taking a tumble

Falls occur when the demands on postural control exceed our bodies’ capabilities. This might happen when your body’s pattern of movement is interrupted or suddenly changed by an unexpected hazard – for instance, when you trip over. Or, it could happen when your body is displaced beyond its support base and your attempt to correct the displacement is delayed, inadequate or inaccurate – for example, when you’re pushed forcefully.

Falls are more likely to occur as you get older. With age and inactivity, the unconscious processes your brain goes through to help you balance may not integrate as well or as quickly as they used to – in other words, your cognitive abilities decline. As a result, maintaining balance and preventing harmful falls may require ever greater mental focus and prove more fatiguing. Poorer cognition can also limit your ability to multitask: the “stops walking when talking” phenomena, which you may have observed among your elderly relatives, reflects this difficulty.

Another result of ageing is that the quality of the information provided by your visual, vestibular and somotosensory systems declines. Your eyesight gets worse, with increased susceptibility to glare and poor depth perception. This can lead you to misinterpret the lay of the land, or misjudge distance, which can cause a fall.

The normal sensory feedback from your joints to the brain is reduced by swollen feet and ankles and poor flexibility. Diseases in weight-bearing joints, such as arthritis, may cause errors in foot placement, while distorted or painful feet and poorly-fitted shoes can pass misleading information to the brain about the nature of your contact with the ground when you’re walking.

Vestibular abnormalities such as vertigo or inner ear infections are causes of dizziness, which can also increase the risk of a falls. Certain medications which are commonly prescribed among the older population – such as aspirin, quinine, and some antibiotics and diuretics – can lead to problems in vestibular function.

All these age-related changes increase the likelihood of a fall, as you’re faced with planned or unplanned challenges to your balance during day-to-day life. But with all of these extra concerns, there’s a risk that older people will to descend into a vicious spiral of inactivity: many of these “ageing” changes to the body are accelerated by sedentary behaviour, which in turn leads to a greater reduction in strength and balance, loss of bone and an increased risk of falls.

Never too late

The good news is, that it is possible to break this vicious circle and slow the process of deterioration, improve strength and balance and reduce the risk of future falls by being active.

We should all aim to be active every day and build up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which should make you feel slightly out of breath and a bit warmer. This time can be accumulated in ten-minute bursts. At least two of these short bursts should build strength and balance: examples include lifting weights, yoga, Tai Chi, Otago or postural stability classes, bowls and dancing. And it’s important to check that the instructor is trained to teach older adults if the person is new to exercise.

That being said, of the trials of exercise programmes aimed at reducing falls as many have failed as have succeeded. The greatest relative effects of exercise on fall rates were seen in programmes that included in excess of 50 hours (either an hour a week for a year or twice a week for a 6 month period), together with challenging balance exercises in which people aimed to stand with their feet closer together or on one leg, minimise use of their hands to assist with balancing, and practice controlled movements of increasing sway over time.

It’s never too late to start. By concentrating on forms of exercise that challenge strength and balance, we can help maintain our bodies’ complex balancing systems, and confine the time we become dependent on others to a short period at the end of our lives.  …………………’

He Taught This Senior To Use Computers and the Internet, She Thanked Him with a Letter Typed in Word

From the heart and a thought for others.

Kindness Blog

I teach seniors at the senior home how to use computers and the internet.

When I came in today, one of the ladies used MS Word to write me this letter…

letter from a senior - kindness

Transcribed for anyone who has trouble reading it from the picture.

Dear (Name Protected)

Thank you with all my heart (and more, if possible) for the wonderful gift of music you have given me (obviously haven’t quite mastered the intricacies of Word yet.)

I spent all last night searching YouTube and ‘subscribing’ to stuff I haven’t heard in years except in my mind (as well as some comedy routines that never fail to crack me up)

Again, with all my heart (I could use one of those little emojis right about now!)

Love (Name Protected)

PS. And I even get to watch them. How could I ask for more!?!

PPS. And there are several versions of many of them…

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Home Care is Key to Aging in Place Read

Original post from Care2


Home Care is Key to Aging in Place

More and more aging Americans want to grow old in their own homes. Home care agencies offer services that are key to helping older adults who want to age in place, as this AgingCare.com blogger found out when she hired home care for her husband, Charlie:

Charlie had his first session with his home health care worker today.

He has been balking ever since I told him that someone would be coming in twice a week to help him shower. Believe it or not, it had been six weeks since his last shower. His excuses for not showering were legendary; he was too tired, he’d do it tomorrow, his shoulder hurt and so on. When I tried to force the issue, he would get belligerent, and I would back down.

The last time he had a shower was when his daughter was staying with him while I took a much-needed respite to Florida to visit family. She told him he had to get shined up before I came home and he finally agreed.

I didn’t warn him that the health care worker was coming today. He had just finished his breakfast when she arrived, so the timing was perfect. Had I told him ahead of time, he probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed for us.

At first he dug in his heels and said he didn’t need help. But with some cajoling from the two of us he reluctantly agreed to be led into the bathroom. The woman was very good with him; she had him bathed and his hair washed in no time. She also helped him dress. He said he didn’t need help with that, either. He can do it himself—if one doesn’t mind waiting the thirty minutes that it takes him to accomplish that chore.

She got him settled in a chair while she changed his bed. I have a woman who comes in once a week to do some house–work but Charlie never wants to get out of bed in time to get it changed. That chore, therefore, falls to me when he finally decides to get up.

After she changed the bed, she helped him back to bed so he could “rest his back.” I know it exhausts him to go through the showering ritual so I have no problem with that. He will probably be there until three o’clock or so, resting up from his ordeal.

The health aide noticed that Charlie got confused when he stepped into the shower, not sure how to begin the process; and she sensed that he was afraid he would fall. She assured him that that was the reason she was there, changed the water flow to a slower, more comfortable pressure and directed him in getting through the process.

She commented to me later that high water-pressure might tear fragile old skin, something that had not occurred to me. We non-professionals just don’t realize how frightening something we take for granted can be for someone with dementia.

Charlie seemed very self-satisfied once the process was finished. I think it wasn’t nearly as humiliating as he had expected it to be, nor was it as tiring with someone to help him through it. He may actually learn to enjoy the pampering.

I haven’t told him yet that, from now on, this will be a twice-weekly ritual. I may get flack over that but we will deal with it as it comes.

In the meantime, he got a kiss from me when it was over. I told him it was a pleasure to kiss his fresh shiny face; that produced a “humph,” and a grin. Ah—it’s the little things in life that count.

20 Warning Signs an Older Adult Needs Help at Home
How to Pay for Home Care
10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Home Care
What You Need to Know about Long-Term Care Insurance
What Not to Do When Hiring Home Care
10 Myths about Home Care for the Elderly      ………………’


Letter To A Daughter

The reflections of aging and how it mirrors others.

Madamsabi's Blog

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.
If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.


When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way … remember, honey, I patiently…

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