Stair negotiation is among the most challenging and hazardous types of locomotion for older people. However, the effect of aging on balance control during stair negotiation has not been investigated. Instantaneous inclination angles between the center of mass (CoM) and center of pressure (CoP) have been reported to detect gait instability effectively in the elderly. The purpose of this study was to compare the CoM-CoP inclination angles between 12 healthy elderly and 13 healthy young adults when performing stair ascent (SA) and descent (SD) on a three-step staircase. Whole body motion data were collected with an eight-camera motion analysis system. Four force plates were mounted on the floor as well as the first two steps to measure ground reaction forces. No significant group differences were detected in any of the temporal-distance gait measures and CoM-CoP inclination angles during SA and SD. Compared to the floor-to-stair transition phase, both groups demonstrated a significantly greater CoM-CoP medial inclination angle while ascending the stairs. However, a significant reduction in medial inclination was only detected in young adults when transferring from SD to level ground walking. Elderly adults were found to demonstrate a significantly greater medial inclination angle during the stair-to-floor transition phase when compared to young adults. Age-related degenerations in the elderly could compromise their ability to regulate body sway during the stair-to-floor transition, which may subsequently increase the risk of falling.
ASJC Scopus subject areas