Why we lose our balance as we age - and what we can do

- Some people are really good at balancing, but what happens to our skills as we age? 

Deena Centofanti finds out with the help of what's called a force plate. 

"(As you stand on the force plate) you think you're standing still but you're not," explains Dr. Daniel Goble, associate professor of exercise science at Oakland University. "There are very small movements rocking you back and forth as you stand on a day-to-day basis, and the bigger those movements the more likely you are ... to have a fall. The force plate just measures how much you're swaying. 

Goble is passionate about understanding balance and figuring out who's at risk for falls. 

"We've measured balance from age five to age 100 in the database and we've shown that your balance gets steadily better until you're somewhere around age 14 and then you stay static until your 40s ... and as you get into your 40s you get worse and worse, and exponentially worse as you become an older adult. 

It's inevitable. Eventually we lose some of those balancing skills.

"It's usually a combination of things that cause balance to go wrong. It's declining of the brain and it's also a decline in the muscular system and how we coordinate our muscles with our neural system," he says. 

One fall can completely change a life, leading to months of rehab and a loss of independence. Goble is the cofounder of the balance tracking systems, the company that created this portable - and cheaper - force plate. The goal is to screen everyone to figure out who's at risk, and then prevent falls with exercise and environment. 

"We know lots of ways to make balance better, so things like yoga, things like tai chi, exercise programs have all been shown to be effective," he says. 

Those with a high fall risk can change a few things at home, too, to prevent a fall. Make sure carpets or rugs aren't sticking up; put railings along stairs; and make sure your house is well lit.

After trying to stand perfectly still for two minutes with her eyes closed, Deena's results were ready. 

Compared to her peers in the 40-49-year-old age group, she did pretty good. But the real goal to keep track well into old age. 

Part of the design of the force plate is how portable it is, which means Goble can reach different people in different places to help track data. 

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