Title page for ETD etd-09302005-160914

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Kim, Hyung Nam
Author's Email Address hykim7@vt.edu
URN etd-09302005-160914
Title The Effects of Transitioning Between Different Floor Surfaces on Gait Characteristics of the Elderly
Degree Master of Science
Department Industrial and Systems Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Lockhart, Thurmon E. Committee Chair
Dickinson, Joan L. Committee Member
Kleiner, Brian M. Committee Member
  • Carpet
  • Transitioning
  • The elderly
  • Vinyl
Date of Defense 2005-09-16
Availability unrestricted
Each year the rate of slip and fall accidents increases among older individuals. Most falls among the elderly occur indoors rather than outdoors, and of the falls that occur in the residential home, over 600,000 are due to floor covering materials. In particular, carpet and vinyl are common floor coverings used in the home today as the elderly often transition from carpet to vinyl and vice versa. When transitioning between two different floor surfaces, older adults may adjust their gait to avoid a slip, trip, or fall. Many studies have assessed gait parameters of elderly individuals on either carpet or vinyl. Yet, few have studied the effect of transitioning between two different floor surfaces on the gait of older individuals.

This study investigated the effect of transitioning between different floor coverings on the gait characteristics of the elderly. For this study, 14 elderly (65 years old and over) and 14 young (18 to 35 years old) individuals participated. All participants walked on different transitional floors, namely carpeted floors, vinyl floors, and floors covered with both vinyl and carpet. While the participants were walking on the walkway, different gait parameters were measured, including the required coefficient of friction, stride length, transitional acceleration of the whole body center-of-mass (COM), heel velocity at heel contact, perception of slipping/tripping, and toe clearance. It was hypothesized that older participant's gait parameters would be different from their younger counterparts. Also, the older participant's gait adaptation would increase the likelihood of a slip and trip propensity while transitioning between different floor surfaces compared to the younger participants. More specifically, for the elderly, transitioning from carpeted floor surfaces to vinyl floor surfaces would increase the slip propensity and transitioning from vinyl floor surfaces to carpeted floor surfaces would increase trip propensity, and therefore increase the likelihood of fall accidents.

In the present study, it was found that elderly individuals had greater toe clearance than their younger counterparts. Also, the elderly individuals had smaller toe clearance on the carpet than on the vinyl, which would increase the probability of a trip-induced fall when walking on the carpet.

Further, the propensity of a slip-induced fall accident increased on the vinyl shortly after transitioning from the carpet to the vinyl due to the slower transitional acceleration of the whole body COM and the increased friction demand, especially during the toe-off phase of the gait cycle, rather than heel contact phase of the gait cycle.

In addition, it was also found that an increase in heel contact velocity and step length increases the propensity of a slip-induced fall accident. Furthermore, this propensity is greater while transitioning from a carpet to a vinyl floor surface, especially for elderly individuals.

The results of the present study indicate that transitioning between different floor surfaces changes the biomechanical parameters of gait, especially for the elderly individuals. Although the increased likelihood of a slip or trip accident was found throughout the changes in biomechanical gait parameters, the elderly individuals who participated in this study did not perceive of slipping and tripping much. Therefore, elderly individuals should be made aware of

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