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Does Fear of Falling Influence Spatial and/or Temporal Gait Parameters in the Elderly Beyond Changes Associated with Normal Aging?

1 May 2002


Background and Purpose. Limited research exists on fear of falling and its affect on gait parameters. Many studies have shown a relationship between fear of falling and restriction of activities. Hence, the purpose of this study was to determine if a fear of falling in the elderly was associated with changes in spatial and temporal gait parameters, independent of a history off alls. It was hypothesized that, in the elderly, gait changes such as decreased speed and stride length and increased stride width and double limb support time would all be associated with a pre-existing fear of falling. Methods. Ninety-five community dwelling adults, 28 males and 67 females, aged 60-97 years (mean age = 74, SD = 8.5) participated in this study. Subject scores on the Modified Falls Efficacy Scale determined an individual's placement into the "fearful" or "fearless" category. Spatial and temporal gait parameters of speed, stride length, step width, and double limb support time were assessed using the GAITRite® system, a computerized electronic walkway. Results. The "fearful" group had a significantly slower gait speed (p < 0.05) and shorter stride length (p < 0.05) when compared to the "fearless" group. Stride width was significantly longer (p = 0.05) and double limb support time was significantly prolonged (p < 0.05) in the "fearful" subjects wh~n measure against the "fearless" subjects. Discussion and Conclusion. The results of this study support the hypothesis that fear of falling does influence spatial and temporal gait parameter changes in the elderly. Slower gait speed, shorter stride length, increased stride width, and prolonged double limb support time were found to be associated with a pre-existing fear of falling.


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