Industrial and Management Systems Engineering


Date of this Version

Winter 2005


Published in Human Factors 47:4 (Winter 2005), pp. 708-729. Copyright © 2005 Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Inc.; published by Sage Publications. Used by permission


Although much has been learned in recent decades about the deterioration of muscular strength, gait adaptations, and sensory degradation among older adults, little is known about how these intrinsic changes affect biomechanical parameters associated with slip-induced fall accidents. In general, the objective of this laboratory study was to investigate the process of initiation, detection, and recovery of inadvertent slips and falls. We examined the initiation of and recovery from foot slips among three age groups utilizing biomechanical parameters, muscle strength, and sensory measurements. Forty-two young, middle-age, and older participants walked around a walking track at a comfortable pace. Slippery floor surfaces were placed on the track over force platforms at random intervals without the participants’ awareness. Results indicated that younger participants slipped as often as the older participants, suggesting that the likelihood of slip initiation is similar across all age groups; however, older individuals’ recovery process was much slower and less effective. The ability to successfully recover from a slip (thus preventing a fall) is believed to be affected by lower extremity muscle strength and sensory degradation among older individuals. Results from this research can help pinpoint possible intervention strategies for improving dynamic equilibrium among older adults.