Interventions aiming at balance confidence improvement in older adults: An updated review

  • Büla C
  • Monod S
  • Hoskovec C
 et al. 
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BACKGROUND: Loss of balance confidence is a frequent condition that affects 20-75% of community-dwelling older persons. Although a recent fall is a common trigger, loss of balance confidence also appears independent of previous experience with falls. Maintaining or improving balance confidence is important to avoid unnecessary, self-imposed restrictions of activity and subsequent disability. Holding another person's hand or using an assistive device while walking are simple interventions that are used naturally to address poor balance confidence in daily life. However, more complex interventions have also been developed and tested to achieve more sustained improvement in balance confidence. OBJECTIVES: This review describes interventions that have been tested to improve balance confidence in older community-dwelling persons. METHODS: Based on 2 recent systematic reviews, an additional search for literature was performed to update current information on interventions aiming at balance confidence improvement. Interventions were classified as those directly aimed at increasing balance confidence or not, and further stratified into those using monofactorial or multifactorial approaches. RESULTS: A total of 46 randomized controlled trials were identified. Five of the 8 interventions that directly targeted balance confidence showed benefits. Among those, multicomponent behavioral group interventions provided the most robust evidence of benefits in improving balance confidence and in decreasing activity avoidance. Among interventions not directly aiming at balance confidence improvement (11/21 studies with benefits), exercise (including tai chi) appears as the most promising monofactorial intervention. Nine of the 17 multifactorial fall prevention programs showed an effect on balance confidence, exercise being a main component in 7 of these 9 studies. Interventions that targeted elderly persons reporting poor balance confidence and/or those at risk for falls seemed more likely to be beneficial. CONCLUSIONS: Positive and sometimes sustained improvement in balance confidence can be achieved by various interventions among community-dwelling elderly persons. The effect of these interventions on activity restriction associated with poor balance confidence have been less well studied, but some studies also suggest potential benefits.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Disability
  • Falls
  • Falls efficacy
  • Fear of falling

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  • Christophe J. Büla

  • Stéfanie Monod

  • Constanze Hoskovec

  • Stéphane Rochat

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