A review of balance instruments for older adults

Am J Occup Ther. 1998 Sep;52(8):666-71. doi: 10.5014/ajot.52.8.666.


Objective: The purpose of this article is to review balance instruments developed within the past 10 years that can be used in the clinic or home environment. The use of such instruments may assist in identifying older adults who are at risk for falling, a major problem that can result in impaired function and loss of independence.

Method: Six instruments were reviewed: the Berg Balance Scale (Berg), the Clinical Test of Sensory Interaction and Balance (CTSIB), the Functional Reach Test, the Tinetti Balance Test of the Performance-Oriented Assessment of Mobility Problems (Tinetti), the Timed "Up and Go" Test (TU&GT), and the Physical Performance Test (PPT). Considered were what aspects of balance are assessed, time needed to administer the instrument, tools or equipment needed, evidence of reliability and validity, advantages and disadvantages, and the target population.

Results: The Berg, Tinetti, and PPT measure a variety of aspects of balance, whereas the Functional Reach, TU&GT, and CTSIB measure more narrow aspects of balance. All six instruments have been used with older adults and do not require much equipment. The instruments differ in their reliability and validity.

Conclusion: Familiarity with balance instruments can be helpful in selecting the one most appropriate for clinical setting and clients in order to institute appropriate prevention programs, such as environmental modifications and lifestyle adaptations.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Occupational Therapy / methods
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Postural Balance*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity