When it comes to aging in retirement, it’s often the bank account ‘balance’ that many seniors spend time worrying about, but what about your sense of balance? Often it’s older adults who start to struggle with standing, ascending stairs, and generally staying upright who start to realize what a key role balance plays when it comes to remaining mobile and independent.
A product of the brain, eyes, muscles and joints, and inner ear (vestibular system) all working together in intricate yet powerful ways, balance essentially helps your body understand its spatial orientation in regards to gravity and your surroundings. If one small part of the balance system isn’t working properly, this can lead to falls, injury, and difficulty standing, sitting, and walking.
Some medical conditions can cause symptoms which affect balance, like dizziness, lightheadedness, and unsteadiness. These conditions include:
- Meniere’s Disease – an inner ear disease, Meniere’s can cause sudden dizziness, pressure, ringing, or buzzing in the air, vertigo, and even hearing loss.
- Vestibular neuritis – inflammation of nerves in the inner ear can cause disequilibrium, dizziness, vertigo, and nausea.
- Parkinson’s – Parkinson’s Disease and other chronic conditions which affect the central nervous system and motor cortex can lead to gait impairment, muscle rigidity, tremors, and loss of the coordination required for balance.
Other medical precursors to balance problems can include conditions that affect nerve function (like diabetes) and those that require medicines which contribute to dizziness or drops in blood pressure.
So how can an aging senior fight those developments which put them at risk for balance problems? Don’t miss this essential checklist:
As significant as the inner ear is to balance, so is the strength and coordination your body needs to send proper feedback to the brain. Routine physical fitness fortifies your body to hone and maintain balance skills by supporting and building muscle, keeping bones strong, and facilitating greater flexibility and agility.
Experts recommend low-impact strength training and cardio activities for older adults like hiking, dancing, cycling, and swimming. Balance-specific exercises might also include practicing yoga or training on stability balls, balance discs, and wobble boards. Click to take a look at this list of the best balance discs.
Hearing and Vision Checks
The sensory receptors in your eyes and the fluid balance in your inner ear work in tandem to foster strong balance when you sit, stand, and so forth. If you develop age-related vision or hearing problems, your balance could easily be at risk. Inhibited depth perception, hearing loss, any combination of ear and eye impairment can not just affect balance but also put you at higher risk for injury and social isolation.
Routine hearing and vision checks can be done with your doctor or even at local community health fairs. They are often the best way to discover and treat potential problems before they start negatively impacting your health and independence.
Discuss Medicine Side Effects
Starting a new prescription for blood pressure? Switching to a higher dosage of your Parkinson’s medication? Start a dialogue with your doctor to thoroughly discuss medicine side effects, especially those which might affect your balance. A sudden drop in blood pressure when standing (hypotension) can cause you to become dizzy and fall over while other medicines might also cause disequilibrium or lightheadedness.
Understanding side effects and being prepared in the event of loss of balance better equips you for avoiding falls and potentially disabling injuries. If you have negative recurring reactions, your doctor may be able to suggest a comparable but different medicine or even change your dosages and frequencies to mitigate severe side effects.
Avoiding the activities that tend to make you lose balance isn’t necessarily in the best interests of your health and well-being, especially if they keep you from staying active, exercising, and engaging with others socially. Instead, adaptive equipment and ease-of-use tools should be employed to simplify daily tasks while helping you stay safe and fall-free.
For example, reacher grabber tools can help older adults reach for and pick things up without having to bend or stoop over. Mobility aids like walkers and knee scooters can provide support and stability to people with chronic conditions that affect their ability to stand and walk successfully. And shower chairs, non-slip mats, and grab bars can turn one of the most fall-prone rooms in the home, the bathroom, into a safe place to use the restroom and bathe.