Who Benefits from Balance Matters® and Step & Connect Services

Older Adults who would like to Prevent Falls

How We Improve Balance for Older Adults

  • Educate:  As people continue to mature into their older years, there are varying degrees of change to their body that impact balance.  Although some of the factors that contribute to these changes are not under our control, there are things we can do such as exercise that can preserve the integrity of our various body systems or even improve them.  We will teach you how you can maximize your body’s potential to maintain, and perhaps even further improve upon, the agility you enjoy in your younger years.
  • Involve:  We will assess all your risk factors for diminishing balance by assessing your risk factors and teach you how to counteract them.  We will evaluate the multiple systems that contribute to good balance and highlight the ones that need more attention and work to make them function better. We will show you how to engage all your senses to optimize your balance.
  • Empower: Knowledge empowers you. Understand your balance and the rationale for appropriate exercises to start making changes today!

Good balance requires that input be transmitted efficiently and effectively from your eyes, muscles and joints, and vestibular system. See our How You Balance handout. This results in coordinated movements and reactions in the legs, feet, arms and trunk.  The brain needs to integrate both the sensory and motor processes in order to select the most appropriate strategies and learn how to integrate new strategies when necessary.

Balance is required in all everyday tasks from something as simple as grabbing something out of a closet to something as complex as climbing a mountain.   Although the risk of falls increases with age, falls are NOT a normal part of aging. Healthy seniors are able to maintain good balance and perform daily activities well with confidence and without falls. The statistics show more than one out of four older adult people falls each year, however there are things you can do to minimize your risk.1-2 The first step is to understand your risk.  The next step is taking action to decrease your risk.

Risk Factors that Contribute to Falls

  • Biological Risk Factors include those associated with the human body and are related to the natural aging process, as well as the effects of and to chronic or acute health conditions such as dizziness or orthostatic hypotension.3,4,7,17
    • Sensory changes: Vision may be affected by cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. The somatosensory system, which is the system that helps you know where you body is in space, may be affected by conditions such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy and traumatic injury. The vestibular system, which is another system that helps the body with spatial orientation, can be affected by degeneration. This system also provides your brain receive information about motion and equilibrium.3,5-7
    • Neurological changes: Medical conditions that affect the brain such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, dementia, seizure disorder can all negatively impact balance.18
    • Musculoskeletal changes: Muscle weakness and loss in muscle mass can lead to mobility problems.8
    • Cognitive changes: The basic cognitive functions most affected by age are attention and memory, although enormous variability exists across individuals.9-13
  • Behavioral/Lifestyle Risk Factors
    • Medication
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Poor diet
    • Lack of exercise
    • Improper footwear
    • Risk-taking behavior due to poor awareness of ability and safety11
    • History of falls: One fall increases the risk for another fall threefold
    • Fear of falling: Fear can lead to a decline in overall participation in activities 11. Fear can also lead to maladaptive changes in balance control such as “stiffening” that may increase the risk of falling. People who are fearful of falling also tend to lack confidence in their ability to prevent or manage falls, which increases the risk for recurrent falls 12.
  • Environmental Risk Factors
    • Home and environmental hazards (clutter, poor lighting, throw rugs)
    • Incorrect size, type or use of assistive devices (canes, walkers, crutches, etc.)
    • Poorly designed public spaces

Good News!

The good news is older adults can reduce their risk and maintain a good quality of life by doing the following:15-19

  1. Improve the safety of your home and environment. - Learn How
  2. Have your vision and medications checked.
  3. Have your balance and gait assessed by a balance expert. 
  4. Educate yourself on balance and how it affects everyday activities.
  5. Exercise! Stay active! Research supports interventions that incorporate exercise are the most effective to manage falls risk. For optimal results, the exercise program needs to be structured, progressed, and must achieve the minimum dose of exercise.17

Step and Connect wants to be a resource for medical professionals and clients offering the most updated education, appropriate programs in your community, and balance specialists that can optimally decrease fall risk and improve people’s balance. We developed Balance Matters® as an additional tool to help clinicians and clients to improve their balance programs in the clinic or home.

Balance Matters® was designed to offer a wide variety of training options. It allows specificity in sensory training of one or more impaired systems, encourages anticipatory postural adjustments, improvesd gait mechanics, enhancesd kinesthetic awareness, varied equilibrium retraining, and offers cognitive reconditioning. Its setup is easily created in the clinic and easily replicated in the home environment. Clients can obtain their Balance Matters® system to replicate the multisensory real time feedback that skilled health care professionals provide in the clinic. This will facilitate progress achieved while actively receiving therapy and also preserve progress after therapy has been completed.