Our ability to perceive where we are and how we should respond to changing sensory conditions during our daily lives is heavily dependent on (a) the amount and quality of information we receive from our peripheral sensory receptors and (b) how the brain organizes and integrates that information once it has reached the central nervous system (CNS).
Each of the three sensory systems (visual, vestibular, and somatosensory) contribute to balance and mobility experiences significant changes as a function of the aging process.
· Decline in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and depth perception
· The threshold for detecting vibration and joint movement increases- may not detect changes in time to respond
· The number of sensory receptors (hair cells) within the inner ear’s vestibular apparatus drops
· A reduction in the gain of the vestibular-ocular reflex (VOR)
Although older adults generally are able to compensate for small age-related changes occurring in each of these systems, impairments associated with particular medical diagnosis (e.g. macular degeneration, peripheral neuropathy, Meniere’s disease) combined with severe deconditioning (loss of muscle strength, joint flexibility and range of motion, and reduced stamina) will negatively affect the postural control system which limit both the types of activities older adults can perform successfully and the environments in which they can function successfully. This causes the older adult to lose balance easily and falls begin occur.
In balance and mobility training we focus on optimizing functioning of the unimpaired sensory systems while compensating for the systems that are known to be permanently impaired.
Careful review of our clients' medical history, and balance and mobility assessments helps us determine which sensory system is permanently impaired or becoming progressively more impaired over time (e.g. macular degeneration, peripheral neuropathy). Your trainer or therapist will then select exercises that would force the use of other, non-impaired sensory systems, so that the older adult can compensate for the loss in one sensory system by maximizing the function of another sensory system.
Balance and mobility exercises will benefit the older adult when exercises are targeted to the impairment. Just signing up for a balance class may or may not provide the results that you are looking for.
Our senior clients enjoy a holistic approach in restoring balance with multisensory balance and mobility training two to three times per week in combination with (two to three times per week) muscle strengthening exercises and daily cardiovascular exercise (e.g. walking, cycling or recumbent cycle, recumbent/seated stepper-NuStep, or recumbent elliptical, swimming), a home and environmental fall safety check. We may also request your healthcare provider to perform a medication review and annual eye exam. This holistic intensive intervention can make dramatic improvements in functional fitness, overall health, and quality of life of our older adult client.
Information from FallProof balance and Mobility Training professional training manual