Adding Light Touch While Walking in Older Adults: Biomechanical and Neuromotor Effects

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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Adding haptic input may improve balance control and help prevent falls in older adults. This study examined the effects of added haptic input via light touch on a railing while walking. Participants (N = 53, 75.9 ± 7.9 years) walked normally or in tandem (heel to toe) with and without haptic input. During normal walking, adding haptic input resulted in a more cautious and variable gait pattern, reduced variability of center of mass acceleration and margin of stability, and increased muscle activity. During tandem walking, haptic input had minimal effect on step parameters, decreased lower limb muscle activity, and increased cocontraction at the ankle closest to the railing. Age was correlated with step width variability, stride length variability, stride velocity, variability of medial-lateral center of mass acceleration, and margin of stability for tandem walking. This complex picture of sensorimotor integration in older adults warrants further exploration into added haptic input during walking.

Oates, Awdhan, and Lanovaz are with the College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada. Arnold is with the School of Rehabilitation Science, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada. Fung is with the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada; and Feil/Oberfeld/CRIR Research Center, Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital, site of the Integrated Centre for Health and Social Services (CISSS) of Laval, Laval, QC, Canada.

Oates (Alison.oates@usask.ca) is corresponding author.
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