Wondering Why?

Why do elderly people lose their balance?

Elderly people and retirees, for example, are frequent victims of falling accidents.  Many of these accidents are attributed to their loss of balance.  Some of these senior citizens lose their balance while walking down the stairs or on the street while others also fall even when standing still.

One reason for the elderly person’s tendency to lose balance is muscle weakness and atrophy.  As people age and become old, the muscles will become smaller and eventually weaker.  Muscles in the legs, for example, are designed to give stability when standing or walking. But when these muscles become weak, the tendency of losing one’s balance is also increased. This tendency to fall down is even more likely when the elderly person is moving or walking.  With walking, for example, the balance may be lost as an old person lifts one foot off the ground while only one leg tries to stabilize his/her body position.

The frequent loss in balance among elderly people may also be caused by degradation of the brain.  Studies have shown that changes in some parts of the brain while a person ages will ultimately affect various things including the person’s balancing skills.  Various parts of the brain are involved with specific functions from memory, movement, sensation, organ function, and balance.  And when the balance center, for example, is affected, as in the case of old age, falling down will also be a more common occurrence.  With the degrading changes in the brain, particularly in the white matter, there will also be slowing down of the reflexes and possible problems with sensation.  Some elderly people will also develop vision problems which further aggravates their ability to maintain stability.  There are also elderly people who will have orthostatic hypotension wherein they easily get dizzy when trying to stand from a sitting position, for example.  All these will contribute to the increased chances of losing balance as one reaches his/her old age.

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