As we age changes to our bodies can take place, affecting the way we move around. These changes can contribute to your risk of falling, increasing the likelihood of a trip or loss of balance.
How your body can change
Some of the changes you might notice include:
- loss of strength and power in leg muscles, which can cause difficulties in carrying out everyday tasks – such as getting out of bed, rising from a seat, going up or down stairs or getting dressed. It can also lead to shuffling when you’re walking or turning, and difficulties cleaning your feet
- stiffness and loss of movement at the hips and ankles
- loss of strength in the upper body and back, which can make you lean forward when you stand and walk
- tiredness when walking any distance
As well as normal ageing, these changes can be a result of:
- health conditions – such as arthritis and Parkinson's disease
- new or old injuries
- lack of physical activity
- the side effects of some medicines, although this is less common
What can I do?
Keep active and do some exercise to help your strength, balance and flexibility – this can make a big difference.
Manage your medication well.
Take care of your feet.
Finding it difficult to move around?
If you’re having difficulty moving around you might also consider:
- using a walking aid
- adding equipment or adaptations to your home
- seeing a physiotherapist or occupational therapist
- creating a plan if you have to get up during the night
If you feel that you need some support when moving around, speak to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist about getting a walking stick or another type of walking aid. Walking aids are most helpful when they've been properly matched to your needs and fitted especially for you.
If you use a walking aid already:
- make sure it has been chosen and fitted especially for you. A stick or frame that's the wrong height can make your walking, balance and posture worse
- keep it clean and in good working order, and check the rubber stoppers or wheels for wear. Your local pharmacy or physiotherapy department should be able to help you replace worn down rubber stoppers
- make sure your home is set up to enable you to use the walking aid safely. You may need to re-arrange furniture and other obstacles
Watch our mobility aids videos
Equipment and adaptations
You might also consider the use of equipment, or adaptations, which can help you keep safe and mobile around the house. These are especially useful if you have difficulty with everyday tasks, such as:
- walking up and down stairs
- getting on and off chairs or the toilet
- getting in and out of the bed or the bath or shower
Care Information Scotland provides more information about equipment and adaptations, as well as funding guides for different types of housing.
Shelter Scotland also provides information about adapting your home, as well as where to get help with repairs, improvements and adaptations.
Seeing a physiotherapist
If you need help to move around safely, a physiotherapist can:
- check how you get around inside and outside your home and, if required, provide the right walking aid for you
- assess your movement, balance and muscle strength and suggest exercises to do at home or at a local class
Your local health centre can help you find a physiotherapist.
Seeing an occupational therapist
An occupational therapist can also help you to stay active and safe by:
- checking how you manage your daily activities
- arranging for you to get equipment – such as rails or walking aids – to make your life easier
- helping you find better ways to carry out everyday tasks around the home
If you would like further advice, or are having difficulties with everyday tasks, you can ask to be referred to an occupational therapist by contacting your local social work department, or health centre.
If you have Parkinson's disease and are at risk of falling, Parkinson's UK have information on occupational therapy and Parkinson’s explaining how occupational therapy can help.
Safety tips if you're unsteady on your feet
Some general advice if you're unsteady on your feet:
- when walking – walk tall, let your arms swing naturally at your sides and look straight ahead. If you can, try to lift your feet and take equal length steps. If you need to look down, do this with your eyes and not your head
- getting up – always take your time when getting up from a chair or your bed because your blood pressure can drop when you stand up and your body may take time to adjust
- dizziness – if you feel dizzy when you get up, try moving your legs in a slow marching action before standing up. If feeling dizzy is a problem for you, ask your GP for advice
Getting up during the night
If you're unsteady on your feet and need to get up during the night, planning ahead will help you to move around safely. This could include:
- making sure that you put a bedside lamp on
- putting on your slippers and glasses, if you wear them
- sitting for a moment on the side of the bed and moving your legs in a slow marching action before standing up slowly
If you find that you're getting up to the toilet more frequently in the night, ask your GP for advice.
Where to start
Think about how you currently move around inside, and outside, your home:
- what positive things do you already do to move around safely?
- what changes can you make that might help?
- how will you make these changes?
- who do you need to talk to?