Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 155–161 | Cite as

The influence of aging and attentional demands on recovery from postural instability

  • G. E. Stelmach
  • H. N. Zelaznik
  • D. Lowe
Original Article


It is well known that the risk of a debilitating injury from a fall is much higher for elderly than for young individuals. In addition, it is well documented that healthy elderly subjects exhibit increased postural sway during normal stance tasks. In the present experiment, we explored the notion that control of minor postural instability in elderly subjects is attention demanding. Postural sway of eight elderly (mean age = 70.0 years) and eight young (mean age = 20.0 years) subjects was measured under two different secondary demands during stable and mildly unstable upright stance. There were two types of work loads. Either a cognitive (math task) or motor (hand-squeeze) task was performed during the second segment of a 50-second standing trial. The effect of these work loads on mean velocity, range, and variability of range of center of foot pressure was measured during the destabilizing activity of arm swinging and subsequent recovery period. Following seven seconds of 1 Hz arm-swinging activity, elderly subjects showed a marked increase in recovery time to normal stance when concurrently performing an arithmetic task. This result suggests that recovery from a posturally destabilizing activity, involving proprioceptive and vestibular information, places increased attentional demands on the postural support system of the elderly. (Aging 2:155-161, 1990)

Key Words

Attention posture 


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Copyright information

© Editrice Kurtis s.r.l. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. E. Stelmach
    • 1
  • H. N. Zelaznik
    • 2
  • D. Lowe
    • 1
  1. 1.Motor Behavior LaboratoryUniversity of Wisconsin, Department of Physical EducationMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation StudiesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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