Is Incontinence a Normal Part of Aging?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 01, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Who gets incontinence -- is it a normal part of aging?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

Anyone can develop incontinence -- the loss of bladder or bowel control causing leakage -- although certain groups are at higher risk. But it's a myth that incontinence is an expected part of growing older. Incontinence isn't normal; it reflects an underlying problem. Incontinence is a symptom, not a disease.

What is true is that the odds of developing incontinence increase with age. There are several reasons for this:

  • With aging, there is more wear-and-tear on the muscles and other tissues involved with urination and elimination, causing them to weaken and lessening their control.

  • Older women are more likely to have a history of pelvic floor disorders or vaginal prolapse as a result of childbirth or the hormonal changes of menopause.

  • Older men are more likely to have prostate problems, such as an enlarged prostate, which can block urine flow.

  • Increasing age makes one more likely to have had surgeries, such as a hysterectomy or colorectal surgery, that affect the relevant structures.

Women over age 40 are the most likely group to have problems with incontinence. (But younger women and men of all ages can be incontinent, too.) Groups at higher risk include:

  • The overweight and obese (extra weight adds pressure to the abdomen).

  • Diabetics (who may lose the sensation of a full bladder).

  • People with arthritis (who may have difficulty getting to the bathroom in time).

  • People with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease (because of damage to the nerves that control the bladder).

  • Men with prostate problems.

Community Answers

Tashapt answered...

Keep in mind that all of our muscles weaken and loose endurance with age. It is a natural process, however, we can blunt these natural effects with appropriate strengthening exercises. Just as resistance training can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, specific strengthening exercises and postural modifications can help resolve or control the symptoms of incontinence. There is no side effect to exercise. I encourage you to visit a physical therapist in your area to teach you the appropriate exercises and posture to give you better control. If you are uncomfortable or unable to go for regular PT visits then you can search for physical therapy guided pelvic floor strengthening products such as books and dvds on line. - Tasha Mulligan MPT,ATC,CSCS

Continencenurse answered...

Urinary incontinence is always secondary to some other problem. And I agree, pelvic floor rehab is the way to go before trying drugs or surgery. Find a Continence Nurse Specialist who can walk you through a full program, including dietary modification for a bladder friendly diet. You can learn more about it here and

Sccggirl answered...

Sometimes you kind of (or at least this works for me for my mom) treat our parents as we may have wanted to be treated when we were kids and had "accidents" as not to embarrass them.

It can be a little worse if they have recurrent UTI as she does lately. I can really feel for her and not sure what to say as maybe it is better not to say anything at all to be on the safe side. She is like me, overly sensitive. It is not easy.