September 3

A Balance Test For Elderly People

A balance test for elderly folks can provide significant mobility indicators and highlight your risk of exposure to injury as a result of a fall.

Why am I telling you all that? Firstly, I have a problem with one of the disks in my back. A nerve is pinched between two disks, consequently affecting my right leg. Secondly, I had a fall in my home late at night as a result of a passage being dark. I was lucky that it only hurt for a few minutes, but of course, it affected the disk in my spine for a few days – just waking like an “S” again for some time.

Before continuing to discuss balance tests, I must add that what gives me a good sense of security are the shoes that I wear; I feel comfortable with high shoes just above the ankles.

I decided to do a bit of reading about the subject and am happy to share it with you. To clarify a few points, I am not a doctor, and the article is not a medical paper, so my first suggestion is to consult your doctor in all cases.


Why balance tests for older adults are essential?

As a result of a fall, you may have to deal with some unpleasant situations.
Falls among the elderly are a leading cause of injuries and permanent disability. A hip fracture can often mean the senior has to choose to move to an assisted living community or get in-home care. Even independent seniors may require mobility devices like walkers or wheelchairs and lose their ability to drive.

Falls are a leading cause of isolation among elderly adults. The anxiety and fear of falling again, or the physical inability to leave the house, can contribute to loneliness and its accompanying health complications.

Your physical activity may be restricted following a fall. Anxiety about falling, even when no injuries occur, can be dangerous. When you live with the fear of falling again, you will become more cautious about moving – or sometimes may not move. That lack of mobility and the deterioration of leg muscles may precipitate another fall.

Ok, so we can agree that it does not sound good. Let’s explore this further.

stand on one leg
stand on one leg

What does it mean to have a good balance?

Good balance is often thought of as something that helps you control your body and keep it steady. And while that’s true to some extent, balance is also about being able to move your body where you want it to go.

Good balance helps you walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling, climb stairs without tripping, and bend over without falling. Balance is vital to help you get around, stay independent, and carry out daily activities.

What are the reasons for balance problems in Elderly People?

Do you sometimes feel dizzy or that the room spins around you? If it happens often, they say it may be a sign of a balance problem; other questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you feel unsteady?
  • Do you feel like you are moving when you know you are sitting or standing still?
  • Are you losing your balance?
  • Do you feel as if you might faint?

Those may be symptoms of a balance problem. If you answered “yes” even once, you might need to seek help from your doctor.

The reasons for balance problems may firstly be age (if we don’t exercise, we lose muscle strength); this we understand. Next is the inner ear; part of the inner ear is responsible for our balance. Something may affect your inner ear, and it has to be checked by a doctor. One other well-known condition is low blood pressure. Sometimes a head injury or some medication can cause balance problems. In any case, your doctor should find the season.

The balance tests

Ok, I am sure that you are interested in those tests and maybe you would like to try them. Since we are dealing with balance and you may be anxious, you should have somebody around you who can help and hold you in case you lose your balance.

I am not going to get into deep medical explanations now; I will only try to describe the tests and what the expected results are.

The Balance Test For Elderly People -Time Up and Go Test or TUG

TUG Test
TUG Test

This test was developed to screen balance problems in the elderly.

The test measures how long it takes you to rise from a chair, walk about 10 feet to a point marked on the floor, and return to sit on the chair.

The experts will tell you that you probably need an assistive device if it takes you more than 30 seconds to complete this task.

If you complete the task in less than 20 seconds, we have good news: you are more likely to be independent in your living activities. But the experts say be careful if it takes you more than 14-15 seconds as you may be at risk of falls.

As you know, those experts like to test variations and see if they can learn more. In this test, they found that if they ask you to do an additional task while you are walking, like counting backward or holding a cup of water, it will take about 25% longer to finish. You may ask why it takes you longer. And the answer is “your brain.” In the first test, your brain had to concentrate on fewer tasks. With the counting or the cup of water, the brain has to allocate resources to accomplish the extra task.

Berg Balance Scale

If you want to know, this test was developed by Kathy Berg, and it includes a series of activities like:

  • Sit to stand
  • Stand unsupported
  • Sit unsupported
  • Stand to sit
  • Transfers
  • Stand with eyes closed
  • Stand with feet together
  • Reach with outstretched arms
  • Retrieve objects from the floor
  • Turn to look behind
  • Turn 360 degrees
  • Alternate stepping on the stool
  • Standing with one foot in front of the other
  • Standing on 1 foot

Ok, in this test, they score each activity on a 0 to 4 scale, where a score of 0 indicates that you can’t perform the task while four means you have no problem doing the task. The maximum that you will be able to score is 56. The bottom line here is that a score of 36 is associated with a close to 100% risk of falls.

Coping with a balance disorder

If you have any trouble with your balance, it’s always best to ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to continue driving. The next question is what you can do. Firstly read the CDC’s Stay independent brochure. Next:

On the medical side

  • The most important thing to do is to speak with your doctor, which is why I repeat it here.
  • Discuss the side effects of your medication with your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Test your eyes regularly.
  • Use proper footwear and have your feet checked.

Stay Active

Physical activity is one of the best ways to prevent falls. Consider activities such as tai chi, walking, or water workouts. These activities reduce fall risk by improving strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.

If you are avoiding physical activity because you are afraid it will make a fall more likely, tell your health care provider. Your doctor may recommend an exercise program or refer you to a physical therapist.

A physical therapist can create a custom exercise program to improve your balance, flexibility, and muscle strength.

Improve safety around your Home

  • Avoid walking in the dark (that is the mistake that I made)
  • Use a cane or walker if you have to
  • Add handrails
  • Add Grab Bars in the bathroom.
  • Use low-heeled shoes
  • Bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways should all have nightlights.
  • Place a light within reach of the bed if you have to get up at night.
  • Make sure you don’t have obstacles in your way to light switches that aren’t near room entrances. Consider trading traditional controls for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated ones.
  • Ensure the lights are ‘on’ before going up or down the stairs.
  • Always have a flashlight in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.
lights on stairs
lights on stairs

Balance disorders can be tricky. Often, they’re caused by another underlying health problem, like an ear infection, stroke, or multiple sclerosis. Sometimes, treating a balance disorder is the best way to treat the underlying illness. But it’s not always that simple. You must talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment course if you’re dealing with a balance disorder.

Problems with the balance caused by high blood pressure can be taken care of by reducing the salt in your diet, trying to maintain a healthy weight, and exercising regularly. Suppose your balance problems are being caused by low blood pressure. In that case, you may be able to improve the situation by drinking lots of fluids, avoiding alcohol, and being careful about your posture and movement. For example, you should try to stand up slowly and avoid crossing your legs when seated.

Exercises that help to correct a balance disorder by moving the head and body in specific ways were developed by a professional (physical therapist) who understands how the balance system works with other systems in the body. Here is a collection of exercises to try.

Exercises to improve balance

Ok, start with a simple balance exercise for seniors. Here’s how you do this:

  1. Stand behind a steady chair, and hold on to the back of it.
  2. Lift your right foot and balance on your left foot.
  3. Remain in that position as long as you can, then switch feet. 

The goal should be to stand on one foot without holding onto the chair and hold that pose for up to a minute.

exercises to improve balance (1)
exercises to improve balance (1)

Heel-to-toe walking

Walking heel to toe is an exercise that can help improve your balance. You are effectively strengthening your leg muscles by placing your right foot in front of your left, and then shifting your weight to your toes. This enables you to walk without falling. Repeat the process with your left foot for best results and continue for 20 steps.

Transfer weight from leg to leg

Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, pressing both feet firmly into the ground. Keep your head level as you lift your left leg off the ground, transferring your weight to your right foot. Hold this position for no more than 30 seconds.

Slowly lower your left leg back to the ground, then transfer your weight to that foot before lifting your right leg. Begin by doing this exercise for balance five times per side, then work up to more repetitions.

Transfer weight from leg to leg
Transfer weight from leg to leg

Stand on one foot with opposite arm up

This balance exercise for older adults is designed to improve your physical coordination.

To begin, stand with your feet together and arms at your side, next to a chair. Slowly raise your left hand over your head, then submit your right foot off the floor. Hold that position for ten seconds. Then repeat the action on the right side.

Start doing your exercises, and you will be ok!

About the author 


I am an experienced elder care provider with a BSc in Electronic Engineering from Tel Aviv University and a diploma in Art from WITS University in Johannesburg. I have traveled widely and understand the challenges of caring for an elderly loved one on a personal level. I currently care for my mother, who is 88 years old and suffers from dementia and physical issues. I have severe back problems and balance issues, giving me first-hand knowledge of how to best care for seniors dealing with similar ailments. My extensive education, experience, and compassion make me an ideal choice for those looking for reliable elderly care.

back to top