Background: With increases in average life expectancy (i.e., 43 million Americans over 65 years old in 2012 and 72 million projected in 2030), the importance of investigating and establishing accessible training methodologies towards good balance and preventing falls has significant societal relevance. It is well known that information from somatosensory, visual and vestibular systems integrate to yield a postural response and that these systems may degrade with age. It was hypothesized that modest and accessible training exercises targeting sensory inputs and base-of-support (BOS) improves balance and balance confidence in mature participants (60 – 80 years old).
Methods: Sixteen participants were assessed pre/post 6 weeks of training, 2 sessions/week involving moderate (meaning low-intensity) walking (wide and tandem) and standing (single-leg, tandem and double-leg) while we varied visual and somatosensory inputs (i.e., eyes-open/closed and hard surface & stiff/compliant foam surfaces). Baseline and final assessments included standard measures (Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) and Activities-specific Balance Confidence (ABC)), as well as forceplate-derived center-of-pressure (COP) displacement and velocity parameters.
Results: From relatively simple, targeted exercises, we observed that BESS scores improved from broadly normal/poor (baseline) to superior (final) performance and improvements (decreases) in both COP parameters.
Conclusions: The results of the training were significant in that by doing sensory/BOS exercises, the participants were able to improve postural control and balance; this implies decreased risk of losing stability and falls. Further, these exercises are accessible and simple enough to be translated to one’s home.
Keywords: Geriatric, rehabilitation, falls, posture, balance, elderly, aging, training, sensory systems