n African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance - Balance in the elderly living at old peoples' homes in Ethekweni, South Africa

Volume 19, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1117-4315


Senescence affects multi-factorial biological systems of the body. These effects extend to the psychological and social context which leads to the elderly feeling anxious, fearful and excluded from communities. Balance, together with other factors such as visual and sensory impairments, is a major contributor to the risk of falling in the elderly. This investigation into balance status will assist in predicting the risk of falls and aid the development of a preventative rehabilitation framework thus reducing the burden on contemporary health structures. The aim of this study was to assess the fall-risk profiles of elderly residents at old peoples' homes in eThekwini district, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study also sought to determine any existing correlations between fall-risk in the elderly and advancing age, gender, ethnicity, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis as well as the level of recreational activities within their daily lives. A prospective cross sectional exploratory survey design was conducted at 14 residential facilities for the elderly in South Africa. A questionnaire designed to obtain socio-demographic, health and recreational backgrounds of residents together with the Berg Balance Scale was used. A fall-risk profile of the residents was established and correlated to the advancing age, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis of chronic illnesses and participation in recreational activities. The elderly dwelling in residential facilities in eThekweni had a low-fall risk profile as predicted by the use of the Berg Balance scores. There was no correlation between gender and ethnicity of the participants. However, a correlation existed between advancing age, the diagnosis of osteoarthritis and participation in recreational activities. Reducing falls in the elderly is essential in improving their quality of life and subsequently will reduce the economic burden on the health system caused by fall injuries. Preventative exercise programmes for the elderly including recreational activities was found to improve the fall risk profiles of the elderly and will contribute to a sense of physical and psychological well-being in this population.

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