Shuffling Seniors: 4 Reasons an Abnormal Gait Is Noteworthy

It is not unusual to observe older adults dragging their feet or shuffling when they walk. In fact, most of us just assume that doing so comes with age. It does, but age itself is not the sole culprit in most cases. There is something else going on. That is why an abnormal gait is noteworthy for seniors. It may signify health problems in need of medical treatment.

When we are young, we don’t worry much about an abnormal gait. Our biggest concern in terms of walking is the footwear we choose to put on. A pair of dress shoes and some GC Tech waterproof overshoes are ideal for work. A good pair of sneakers make daily exercise more comfortable while an old pair of work boots is reserved for working out in the yard. But as we age, gait becomes more important than the shoes in the closet.

Should you be concerned if your aging parents or another senior family member demonstrates abnormal gait? ‘Concerned’ may be too strong a word. But you should at least encourage that family member to ask their doctor about any potential problems.

1. Muscle and Bone Weakness

A number of noteworthy things can encourage seniors to walk with an abnormal gait. Muscle and bone weakness immediately come to mind. As we age, our muscles and bones lose mass. That leads to less strength. Thankfully, there is an easy solution in regular exercise. Even with age, exercise can strengthen bones and muscles quite a bit.

2. Impaired Vision

Some older people shuffle as they walk because they cannot see clearly. Their vision may be impaired by normal aging or an underlying condition like cataracts, glaucoma, etc. In such a case, there may not be a whole lot that can be done to help the situation. But at least knowing that a family member has impaired vision lets you know to be on the lookout for other potential problems.

3. A Loss of Balance

It is normal for older people to experience a diminished sense of balance. Age-related balance loss is the result of several factors including impaired vision and loss of vestibular function. If a loss of balance is affecting a family member’s gait, physical therapy and a number of other treatments can help.

Incidentally, this particular issue is especially troublesome because it can lead to slips and falls, even if a person’s shuffling gait isn’t extreme. Loss of balance is not something that should be taken lightly by older adults.

4. Fear of Falling

The natural effects of aging can make older people afraid of falling even if their risk of doing so isn’t abnormally high. Even young people can experience something similar when walking on wet or slippery pavement. Just the fear of losing one’s footing is enough to alter gait. Seniors can experience that fear regardless of environmental conditions.

Getting to the Root Causes

An abnormal gait is noteworthy because it can lead to other problems. For seniors, an abnormal gait can contribute to slip-and-fall accidents. So it is a good idea for older people with gait issues to ask their doctors about it. A doctor can help get to the root causes of an abnormal gait and offer corrective therapies.

An abnormal gait is no reason to panic. It is not the end of the world. But it is worth noting if you observe it in older family members. Encourage them to ask their doctors about it next time they go in for a visit. Who knows? It could be something that is fairly easy to correct.