As they age, many seniors begin to experience a decline in their coordination and balance.
There are a lot of reasons why seniors struggle with coordination and balance, including chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis, acute events like strokes, spinal and/or head trauma, and neuropathy. Some seniors also experience poor coordination and balance as a side effect of certain medications.
Sometimes, coordination and balance issues are unavoidable. Luckily, though, there are many steps you can take to maintain and improve your strength and stability as you get older, including the six listed below.
1. Get Your Eyes Checked Regularly
When it comes to establishing balance and maintaining good coordination, your eyes play a key role. In fact, sight is the first sense you use when you’re trying to establish your balance. Think about it — have you ever tried to balance on one foot with your eyes closed?
Regular eye exams are essential for seniors who want to maintain good balance and coordination. Visit your doctor once a year to make sure your eyes are healthy and your vision remains clear.
2. Walk Barefoot
This is especially important for seniors who are struggling with neuropathy, or nerve damage, in the feet. When you have nerve damage, you’ll likely have a hard time sensing the ground when you’re moving. This, in turn, can affect your balance and coordination when you walk.
One way to improve sensitivity in your feet and lower limbs and maintain your balancing skills is to spend as much time as possible walking around barefoot or in socks, especially in your house.
Avoid walking barefoot outside if you have nerve damage in your feet, though. You may not notice if you step on something sharp.
3. Strengthen Your Lower Body
A strong lower body — especially strong glutes — is essential for seniors who want to maintain their balance and coordination.
Many lower body exercises challenge your balance while also helping you gain strength. For example, functional exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts allow you to work on your balance while making everyday activities (like sitting down, standing up, and walking) easier.
4. Play Games
Another great way to work on your coordination is to play games.
Playing catch with your friends or grandchildren is a great way to improve your hand-eye coordination. You can also try activities like juggling that require a significant amount of coordination.
5. Practice Tai Chi
In addition to strength training, another one of the best forms of exercise to improve balance and coordination is Tai Chi. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice that combines balancing exercises and stretching. It’s slow-paced, so it’s safe for seniors, but it’s still quite challenging.
The results of one study showed that, after three months, people who practice Tai Chi saw a 20 percent improvement in their hand-eye coordination compared to the control group that didn’t practice Tai Chi regularly.
6. Switch Hands
Finally, try using your non-dominant hand when doing everyday activities like eating, brushing your teeth, or cleaning the house. This challenges your brain and makes it easier for you to improve your coordination without going to a lot of effort.
You’ll be amazed at how challenging this simple switch can be when you first start. However, after a few months of practice, you’ll likely see an improvement in your hand-eye coordination.
Bonus Tips for Seniors with Balance Problems
If you’re currently struggling with poor balance and coordination, these exercises can help. These other tips can also keep you safe and injury-free, especially in your home:
Install stability bars in bathrooms to make standing up and sitting down easier
Use secure bath steps to avoid slipping when you get into the bath or shower
Get rid of loose rugs and loose cables that could become tripping hazards
Work with a physical therapist or personal trainer to improve your strength and balance without injuring yourself in the process
Whether you’re already dealing with a balance or coordination issue or just want to avoid being faced with them in the future, these tips can make a big difference to your overall quality of life. Start implementing them today.