Age-related changes in gaze patterns and avoidance strategies when negotiating single and multiple obstacles

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Lowrey, Catherine R.
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University of Guelph

The aim of this research was to describe age-related changes in locomotor adjustments and gaze patterns during obstructed gait. We observed young adults (YA: N=8) and older adults (OA: N=8) as they stepped over one or two obstacles that were scaled to their lower leg length. Both age groups were able to successfully complete the obstacle avoidance task using similar clearance values, however, the OA crossed the obstacles with a reduced step velocity and stepped closer to the trailing edge, thus increasing their likelihood of tripping. Additionally, OA used similar ranges of trunk motion as young adults when crossing the obstacle, but did so within a narrower base of support. The presence of a second obstacle did not affect clearance strategies of either OA or YA, but did influence gaze patterns and head pitch motion. Head pitch was adjusted in order to facilitate the gaze patterns associated with single and double obstacle negotiation.

age-related change, locomotor adjustments, gaze patterns, obstructed gait