Biomechanical and sensory constraints of step and stair negotiation in old age.

Lead Research Organisation: Manchester Metropolitan University
Department Name: Institute for Biomedical Research


The majority of falls in the elderly occur during stair descent. This is because the downward movement of the body has to be halted every time the foot hits the step and our ability to do this depends on many factors, including muscle strength, joint mobility and our sense of balance, all of which deteriorate with age.

The aim of this programme is to understand the role played in stepping performance by musculoskeletal and sensory functions and their deterioration with ageing and to find ways of improving the ability of older people to descend stairs. 

The first approach will be to examine the design of stairs, specifically the combination of step-rise and step-going, since older people may lack the strength to cope with high steps or have difficulty landing safely on narrow steps.

The results of this study could lead to alterations of the current building regulations relating to stair design.

The second approach is to see to what extent "tailor-made" exercise training, for both strength and skill deficits identified in older people, can minimise the age-related deterioration of stepping ability. It is anticipated that this investigation will result in guidelines concerning the efficacy and cost effectiveness of training interventions.



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Description At the moment, and for the next couple of years, we are concentrating our efforts on disseminating the findings of our studies in the scientific community through abstracts/presentations in scientific conferences and high impact scientific journals. Societal impact beyond the advancement of academic knowledge, eg in the form of policy making and national guidelines, is unlikely to occur quickly. Once all our findings are published, we are thinking of organizing a workshop dedicated to stair fall prevention for older people, to showcase our research findings in the community and relevant trades and stakeholders. We are considering options for funding this event, probably by means of appropriate external fund through a trust/charity or research council.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Healthcare
Description Research Grant
Amount £137,000 (GBP)
Funding ID R502/0717 
Organisation The Dunhill Medical Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2020
Description Inauguration of Research To Improve Stair Climibing Safety (RISCS) group at Liverpool John Moores University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The RISCS inauguration has been planned for July 2017, and includes presentation of stair-related research (including the research funded by NDA) by internal and external academics, as well as policy makers and end-users. Funding has been provided by the Research Institute for Sports and Exercise Science of Liverpool John Moores University for this activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017