The Link Between Mobility and Confidence in Seniors

May 6, 2016

The Link Between Mobility and Confidence in Seniors

Share Article

For seniors to be able to live at home as long as possible, functional mobility is essential. Each year, one in three seniors over the age of 65 experience a fall. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), this results in 2.8 million older people being treated in emergency departments due to fall injuries. About 95% of hip fractures are the outcome of falls. While the injuries and fractures may heal, the elder’s confidence levels may be destroyed.

After experiencing a fall, many seniors experience a decline in mobility. While the physical injury of the fall can be the cause of this, in many cases, the shattered confidence is the reason.

Fear of falling and balance confidence

There are many older adults that are afraid of falling. When compared with other common fears, the fear of falling is ranked first among elderly people living in the community. More than half of these seniors over the age of 62 report a fear of falling. This fear of falling is not limited to just those that have experienced a fall; 27% of elders over the age of 75 who had not fallen, admitted to having a fear of falling.

The impact of this fear leads to activity restriction, with 56% of older adults restricting their activities due to being afraid of falling. This means that these seniors will be less likely to participate in events such as walking, shopping or taking part in social affairs. This can result in depression, feelings of helplessness, social isolation, and ultimately, further physical decline.

Assessing balance confidence

Research has shown that this fear of falling is very closely related to balance confidence. Balance confidence is the extent to which a person believes he or she is able to participate in specific activities without falling. There are two different tools to measure balance confidence.

The Falls Efficacy Scale (FES) and the Activities-specific Balance Confidence (ABC) Scale are two of the measurement scales that were developed to try and evaluate the confidence of balance in elders. These scales differ slightly in that the FES measures falls-related self-efficacy (an individual’s belief in their capacity to perform and reach a goal), while the ABS scale measures an individual’s balance confidence.

Falls Efficacy Scale (FES)

The FES is a 10-item questionnaire that rates an individual’s confidence in performing and completing common activities. Some of these activities include taking a bath or shower, getting in or out of bed, and getting in or out of a chair. Each item is rated on a ten-point scale, 1 being ‘extreme confidence’, and 10 being ‘no confidence’ at all. All points are summed to get a total score. A score of 70 or higher indicates that an individual has a fear of falling.

Activities-specific Balance Confidence (ABC) Scale

The ABC Scale is a 16-item questionnaire that rates an individual’s confidence in performing situation-specific tasks without losing balance or becoming unsteady. Each item is scored from 0%-100%, with 0% indicating no confidence and 100% indicating full confidence to perform the task without losing balance. The percentages are added then divided by 16 to get a percentage of self-confidence.

Confidence and mobility

Studies have shown that older adults that have higher balance confidence perform better in balance and mobility tests. Even when tested with participants with equivalent physical abilities, individuals with higher balance confidence performed better at the actual tasks.

This indicates that lack of balance confidence is an issue that can keep seniors from regaining mobility and independence. By helping your loved one build their confidence, you may help them regain mobility and independence after a fall.

Rebuilding confidence after a fall

There are many different ways that you can help your elder loved one rebuild their confidence after a fall. By helping him or her regain this confidence, you will be helping them increase mobility, independence and even live longer.

Increase physical activity

Physical activity and healthy lifestyle changes can improve balance confidence. Exercise will also help improve flexibility, endurance, strength and balance, which will make it less likely for the senior to experience a fall.

Medical Alert System

Medical alert systems, or help button devices, are very useful, especially for elder adults that live on their own. These systems put the individual in touch with either a family member or emergency medical teams in a matter of seconds just by pushing a button. Knowing that they have this sort of support may help an older person feel more confident.

External factors

Other things that you can do to help build confidence and prevent falls include removing hazards in the home such as clutter or adding aids such as railings, grab bars. Don't forget about adding fall prevention features in the bathroom! Bright lighting will help the senior feel more confident in their ability to move around the home without fear of falling.

Though an elder person may not gain back the full mobility they had before a fall, helping build their confidence will help them gain back some mobility function, independence and lead a happier life.

Please enter a comment.
Please enter a name.
Please enter a valid email address in the form "[email protected]".
Please check the box to the left of "I'm not a robot".

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make my house safe for my elderly parent?

When you have older adults living with you, modifying your home so they can get around safely is one way to extend their independence and mobility. Upsettingly, fall-related injuries are a leading cause of hospital and emergency room visits for seniors. Some easy way to prevent falls around the home are to:

  • Improve the lighting
  • Make sure open, high-traffic areas are clear of things that your elder could slip or trip on
  • Make sure rugs or loose carpets are secured
  • Install extra grab rails around the home, and especially in the bathroom

The shower is an area where falls happen many times due to the combination of getting in or out of the shower and wet floors. If possible, consider getting a walk-in tub to make bathing easier for your senior.

See All Answers »

What safety products/features should I invest in to help prevent my elderly parents from falls?

Falls are the most common injury among seniors, so investing in products that prevent falls is ideal. Make sure handrails are secure, carpets and rugs are tacked down, and that any uneven surfaces are addressed! Also consider getting a bath bench or walk-in tub, as well as proper handrails and mats for bathroom safety. In the unfortunate event of a fall, having proper emergency response technology is also a great idea to make sure seniors are able to phone for help when needed. 

See All Answers »

Search By State

Find Senior Caring Options by State
Finding the perfect senior care community is only part of making your loved one’s senior living transition smooth. At SeniorCaring, we know that it is also equally important to be aware of what other community services and resources are available to your family’s senior. Choose your location and find local resources for your senior.