Age related changes in balance and gait

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Gait and balance disorders are the second leading cause of falls in the elderly. Investigating the changes in static and dynamic balance due to aging may provide a better understanding

Gait and balance disorders are the second leading cause of falls in the elderly. Investigating the changes in static and dynamic balance due to aging may provide a better understanding of the effects of aging on postural control system. Static and dynamic balance were evaluated in a total of 21 young (21-35 years) and 22 elderly (50-75 years) healthy subjects while they performed three different tasks: quiet standing, dynamic weight shifts, and over ground walking. During the quiet standing task, the subjects stood with their eyes open and eyes closed. When performing dynamic weight shifts task, subjects shifted their Center of Pressure (CoP) from the center target to outward targets and vice versa while following real-time feedback of their CoP. For over ground walking tasks, subjects performed Timed Up and Go test, tandem walking, and regular walking at their self-selected speed. Various quantitative balance and gait measures were obtained to evaluate the above respective balance and walking tasks. Total excursion, sway area, and mean frequency of CoP during quiet standing were found to be the most reliable and showed significant increase with age and absence of visual input. During dynamic shifts, elderly subjects exhibited higher initiation time, initiation path length, movement time, movement path length, and inaccuracy indicating deterioration in performance. Furthermore, the elderly walked with a shorter stride length, increased stride variability, with a greater turn and turn-to-sit duration. Significant correlations were also observed between measures derived from the different balance and gait tasks. Thus, it can be concluded that aging deteriorates the postural control system affecting static and dynamic balance and some of the alterations in CoP and gait measures may be considered as protective mechanisms to prevent loss of balance.