Physiotherapy helps optimize function and prevents/delays frailty.

  • Physiotherapy-led exercise programs can help prevent and address frailty by safely supporting those with conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis to remain physically active.
  • Physiotherapy can help improve patients’ overall sense of wellbeing (lessen the impact of depression, reducing anxiety, taking a holistic approach to improving function).
  • Physiotherapy can offer interventions that are likely to improve functional dependence and frailty scores in some older adults.
  • Physiotherapy is safe and effective at preventing/reducing risk of falls.
  • Physiotherapy-led physical activity can help improve cognitive function in those suffering from dementia.
  • Physiotherapy-led physical activity and interventions can help prevent strokes and improve health outcomes in recovery from stroke.
  • Physiotherapy can help prevent and treat urinary incontinence.

Physical decline is a natural part of aging, but physiotherapy can help individuals optimize their personal mobility, strength, and flexibility as they progress through their lifespan. There is significant evidence to support physiotherapy-led exercise interventions as key supports to help patients improve balance, strengthen lower extremities, and reduce risk of falls. Physiotherapy can help improve exercise capacity and help maintain or restore optimal function. Physiotherapy has been shown to increase quality of life, improve some health outcomes, and decrease future use of health care services.1 Physiotherapy is also effective in treating and helping reverse urinary incontinence, one of the most common problems in older adults and a strong predictor for the need for care.2 Recent studies have also demonstrated that seniors receiving rehabilitative services, such as physical therapy, are likely to show improvements in functional dependence and an improved frailty index score.3 These are all contributors to a person’s ability to live independently longer. Physiotherapy has also been shown to have a significant positive impact following stroke, cardiac conditions, in patients who have Parkinson’s disease, and those living with dementia – all conditions with significant individual and health system burdens of disease in older age.

  • Screening and interventions to address frailty, including physiotherapy programs to improve mobility, increase physical activity, and prevent falls, are emerging and showing positive results.4
  • Home-based exercise programs can help prevent falls and frailty5 and improve physical activity, balance, mobility, and muscle strength in seniors.6
  • Physical rehabilitation is safe and effective at reducing falls in older adults who are at high risk for falls.7
  • Early physiotherapy intervention following stroke improves long-term functional recovery, decreases the number of subsequent events, and improves rates of independent living in 81% of patients receiving rehabilitation returning home.8
  • Stroke survivors report that they could benefit from more physiotherapy than is routinely provided in the rehabilitation setting.9
  • Physical activity also appears to preserve, and may even improve, cognitive function in people with dementia, reducing cognitive decline by around one-third.10
  • Pelvic floor physiotherapy, along with lifestyle and behavioural therapy, has been shown to improve female stress urinary incontinence.11

Read more about the role of physiotherapy in optimizing physical function and preventing/delaying frailty in older adults here.


[1] The Conference Board of Canada. (2018, May). Aging Well: Implications of an Aging Population for Physiotherapy in Canada [PDF file]. Retrieved from

[2] Milsom, I., Coyne, K.S., Nicholson, S., Kvasz, M., Chen, C.I., Wein, A.J. (2014, January). Global prevalence and economic burden of urgency urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Eur Urol., 65(1), 79-95. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2013.08.031

[3] Tsay, T., Shugrue, N., Charles, D., Migneault, D., McManus, R., Gruman, C., & Robison, J. (2021, March 1). Type of HCBS Support Provided Predictive of Frailty Status Change Among Older Participants. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 2(3). doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2021.01.091

[4]  Cameron, I.D., Fairhall, N., Langron, C., Lockwood, K., Monaghan, N., Aggar, C., Sherrington, C., Lord, S.R., Kurrle, S.E. (2013, March 11). A multifactorial interdisciplinary intervention reduces frailty in older people: randomized trial. BMC Medicin, 11(65). doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-65

[5] Clegg, A.P., Barber, S.E., Young, J.B., Forster, A., & lliffe, S.J. (2012, February). Do home-based exercise interventions improve outcomes for frail older people? Findings from a systematic review. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 22(1), 68-78.  doi: 10.1017/S0959259811000165

[6] Hill, K.D., Hunter, S.W., Batchelor, F.A., Cavalheri, V., & Burton, E. (2015, April 29). Individualized home-based exercise programs for older people to reduce falls and improve physical performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas, 82(1), 72-84. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.04.005

[7] Tofthagen, C., Visovsky, C., & Berry, D.L. (2012, September). Strength and balance training for adults with peripheral neuropathy and high risk of fall: current evidence and implications for future research. Oncol Nurs Forum, 39(5), E416-24. doi: 10.1188/12.ONF.E416-E424

[8] Mahler, M.P., Züger, K., Kaspar, K., Haefeli, A., Jenni, W., Leniger, T., & Beer J.H. (2008, August). A cost analysis of the first year after stroke - early triage and inpatient rehabilitation may reduce long term costs. Swiss Med. Wkly.,138(31-32), 459-65. PMID: 18690559

[9] Galvin, R., Cusack, T., & Stokes, E. (2009, September). Physiotherapy after stroke in Ireland: a qualitative insight into the patient’s and the physiotherapists’ experience. Int. J. Rehabil Res., 32(3), 238-44. doi: 10.1097/MRR.0B013e32832b083c

[10] Norton, S., Matthews, F.E., Barnes, D.E., Yaffe, K., Brayne, C. (2014, August). Potential for primary prevention of Alzheimer's disease: an analysis of population-based data. Lancet Neurol., 13(8), 788-94. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(14)70136-X

[11] Price, N., Dawood, R., & Jackson, S.R. (2010, December). Pelvic floor exercise for urinary incontinence: a systematic literature review. Maturitas, 67(4), 309-15. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.08.004