Balance disorders in the elderly

Neurophysiol Clin. 2008 Dec;38(6):467-78. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2008.09.001. Epub 2008 Oct 7.


Good balance is an imperative skill for daily life that requires the complex integration of sensory information regarding the position of the body relative to the surroundings and the ability to generate appropriate motor responses to control body movement. Balance calls upon contributions from vision, vestibular sense, proprioception, muscle strength and reaction time. With increased age, there is a progressive loss of functioning of these systems which can contribute to balance deficits. Balance disorders represent a growing public health concern due to the association with falls and fall-related injuries, particularly in regions of the world in which high proportions of the population are elderly. Falls present one of the most serious and costly problems associated with older adulthood. Falls can mark the beginning of a decline in function and independence and are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation in older people. One in three people over the age of 65 years who are living in the community experience at least one fall each year and 10-15% of these falls are associated with serious injury. In economic terms, the direct and indirect costs associated with falls are large and will grow as the proportion of older people increases. Consequently, understanding age-related changes in the physiological systems imperative to balance is of utmost importance to prevent falls in older people and reduce the injury-related burden on individuals and society.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology