Adaptive Changes in Gait of Older and Younger Adults as Responses to Challenges to Dynamic Balance

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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The study proposed to identify balance strategies used by younger and older adults during gait under proprioceptive, visual, and simultaneous proprioceptive-visual challenges. Participants ambulated under 4 conditions: consistent, noncompliant surface; inconsistent, compliant surface (C); consistent, noncompliant surface with vision obscured (NCVO); and inconsistent, compliant surface with vision obscured (CVO). Balance adaptations were measured as changes in gait velocity, cadence, and gait-stability ratio (GSR). Participants were 5 younger (mean age = 27.2) and 5 older (mean age = 68) healthy adults. Significant age differences were found for GSR (p = .03) on all surfaces. Older adults adopted a more stable gait pattern than younger adults regardless of the challenge presented by surface. Significant condition differences were found for velocity (p < .001) and cadence (p = .001). All participants exhibited significantly decreased velocity and increased cadence on surfaces C and CVO. Gait speed and cadence did not significantly change in NCVO. Younger and older adults exhibited similar adaptive balance strategies, slowing and increasing steps/s, under proprioceptive and proprioceptive-visual challenges to dynamic balance.

Rogers was with Dept. of Physical Therapy, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-1144, at the time of this study, as is Cromwell currently. Grady is with the Dept. of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the same institution.