The Effects of Systematic Environmental Manipulation on Gait of Older Adults

Quantification of gait changes in response to altered environmental stimuli may allow for improved understanding of the mechanisms that influence gait changes and fall occurrence in older adults. This study explored how systematic manipulation of a single dimension of one’s environment affects spatiotemporal gait parameters. A total of 20 older adult participants walked at a self-selected pace in a constructed research hallway featuring a mobile wall, which allowed manipulation of the hallway width between three conditions: 1.14 m, 1.31 m, and 1.48 m. Spatiotemporal data from participants’ walks were captured using an instrumented GAITRite mat. A repeated measures ANOVA revealed older adults spent significantly more time in double support in the narrowest hallway width compared to the widest, but did not significantly alter other spatiotemporal measures. Small-scale manipulations of a single dimension of the environment led to subtle, yet in some cases significant changes in gait, suggesting that small or even imperceptible environmental changes may contribute to altered gait patterns for older adults.
Funding Information
  • National Institutes of Health (UL1TR002373, KL2TR002374)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF17-572-1815506)