The free gait of 52 healthy elderly persons was examined. All the subjects were volunteers, aged 65 years or older, and lived in the community in the Kaga area, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. They were healthy and active enough to attend the study location by themselves. The comparison group of young adults consisted of 20 volunteer students. The percentages of females and males were similar in the two groups. The healthy elderly walked more slowly than the young adults. Their slower speed was largely caused by their shorter stride length. Differences were still observed between the young and elderly groups when gait parameters were presented in the form of dimensionless numbers. The elderly were weaker in grip strength and had shorter single-leg balance with eyes open than the young adults. The number of steps per day correlated negatively with age within the elderly group. Negative correlations between age and walking speed, as measured directly or in terms of dimensionless numbers, and between age and stride length were also observed within the elderly group. The relative stance phase duration correlated positively with age within the elderly group. Slow speed may be related to low daily activity, reduced muscle power, and diminished balance ability. Long stance phase duration and slow speed in the elderly could be an adaptive characteristic in response to impaired balance.
2007 The Anthropological Society of Nippon