A number of health conditions can affect your ability to move around or make you feel unsteady on your feet. These conditions include arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart problems, depression, Parkinson's disease and dementia.
These conditions may increase the risk of losing your balance, tripping and falling. Even short-term illnesses (such as the flu or other infections) can affect your stability.
Have regular check-ups and talk to your health professional for advice on how these conditions might affect you. You can also get advice on activities you can safely do to regain balance, strength and confidence.
Our eyes change rapidly as we age, and it becomes more difficult to judge distances, cope with glare and adjust to sudden changes in light. This can affect your ability to see the edges of steps and stairs.
Bifocal, trifocal or multifocal glasses increase the chances of falling, as the changes in the lens can make it difficult to judge distances and to see uneven footpaths and the edges of steps and stairs.
Other eye conditions, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy, impair vision. They may require you to learn new skills to move around safely.
Have your eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist at least every two years, and by your doctor in the years between.
Consider having a separate pair of glasses for walking outdoors.
Give your eyes time to adjust to sudden changes in light, and ensure that you have good lighting at home and on stairs.
If you get new glasses or any treatment for your eyes, be especially careful. You will need to allow your eyesight time to adjust.
Healthy feet and well-fitted footwear help reduce your chances of tripping and falling.
As we age, our feet can change shape and lose some feeling and flexibility. This changes the way we walk and affects balance. See your doctor or a podiatrist, if you have painful or swollen feet.
Keep your feet healthy by keeping nails trimmed and getting treatment for bunions, corns and calluses.
The safest footwear has:
- thin firm soles with a tread
- low square heels
- a firm support around the heel to improve stability.
Mobility and walking aids
A walking aid may help improve your safety and mobility.
If you think that this would benefit you, talk to a health professional such as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. They will be able to suggest the most suitable aid for you and show you how to use the aid safely and confidently.
If you do use a walking aid at home, you might need to rearrange your furniture so that you can move around easily.
© NSW Health 2015, Staying Active and On Your Feet