A biomechanical analysis of stair ascent and descent in older adults

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2012
Thesis identifier
  • T13057
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 200054064
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • The population of the UK is ageing and is set to continue to do so for many years. In order to enable older adults to live independently in their own homes it is essential to understand the challenges of activities of daily living, so that designers can plan suitable environments and rehabilitation professionals can know how best to assist older adults who experience difficulties. Many older adults experience difficulties negotiating stairs and falls on stairs often lead to hospitalization. To date, little research has been undertaken to explore the biomechanical demands of stair climbing and descent, and most of the literature has focussed on younger adults. In order to provide biomechanical data relevant to an ageing population, this research investigated 84 older adults performing stair ascent and descent. The subjects were divided into three age bands, 60+, 70+ and 80+ in order to assess changes related to increasing older age. Data were collected using an 8 camera VICON system with a custom built staircase enabling forces to be recorded from 2 Kistler force platforms. A full body biomechanical model was developed to comply with the best practice standards using VICON bodybuilder. Temporal data, joint kinematics and kinetics were produced for a full gait cycle and reported on for each age category. Subjects performed the activity with and without a handrail to explore how handrails may be of assistance. Adults in the oldest age group were found to have biomechanical changes in both stair ascent and descent. The key findings were a redistribution of joint kinetics, reducing the demands at the ankle joint and increasing the demands on the hip and knee extensors. This strategy optimises muscles groups where there are greater strength reserves in older adults. Use of a handrail improved stability and reduced the demands on the lower limbs.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Nicol, Alexander
Resource Type