The effect of three different types of walking aids on spatio-temporal gait parameters in community-dwelling older adults

Härdi, Irene ; Bridenbaugh, Stephanie ; Gschwind, Yves ; Kressig, Reto

In: Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 2014, vol. 26, no. 2, p. 221-228

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    Background and aims: Gait and balance impairments lead to falls and injuries in older people. Walking aids are meant to increase gait safety and prevent falls, yet little is known about how their use alters gait parameters. This study aimed to quantify gait in older adults during walking without and with different walking aids and to compare gait parameters to matched controls. Methods: This retrospective study included 65 older (≥60years) community dwellers who used a cane, crutch or walker and 195 independently mobile-matched controls. Spatio-temporal gait parameters were measured with an electronic walkway system during normal walking. Results: When walking unaided or aided, walking aid users had significantly worse gait than matched controls. Significant differences between the walking aid groups were found for stride time variability (cane vs. walker) in walking unaided only. Gait performances significantly improved when assessed with vs. without the walking aid for the cane (increased stride time and length, decreased cadence and stride length variability), crutch (increased stride time and length, decreased cadence, stride length variability and double support) and walker (increased gait speed and stride length, decreased base of support and double support) users. Conclusion: Gait in older adults who use a walking aid is more irregular and unstable than gait in independently mobile older adults. Walking aid users have better gait when using their walking aid than when walking without it. The changes in gait were different for the different types of walking aids used. These study results may help better understand gait in older adults and differentiate between pathological gait changes and compensatory gait changes due to the use of a walking aid.