Send to

Choose Destination
J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Mar 14;74(4):500-506. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx254.

Analysis of Free-Living Gait in Older Adults With and Without Parkinson's Disease and With and Without a History of Falls: Identifying Generic and Disease-Specific Characteristics.

Author information

Institute of Neuroscience/Newcastle University Institute for Ageing, Clinical Ageing Research Unit, Campus for Ageing and Vitality.
School of Biomedical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Department of Computer and Information Science, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
KU Leuven, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Neuromotor Rehabilitation Research Group, Belgium.
Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics and Maternal Child Health, University of Genova, Italy.
Departments of Geriatric Medicine and Neurology, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Center for the study of Movement, Cognition and Mobility, Department of Neurology, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Israel.
Department of Physical Therapy, Sackler School of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center and Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.



Falls are associated with gait impairments in older adults (OA) and Parkinson's disease (PD). Current approaches for evaluating falls risk are based on self-report or one-time assessment and may be suboptimal. Wearable technology allows gait to be measured continuously in free-living conditions. The aim of this study was to explore generic and specific associations in free-living gait in fallers and nonfallers with and without PD.


Two hundred and seventy-seven fallers (155 PD, 122 OA) who fell twice or more in the previous 6 months and 65 nonfallers (15 PD, 50 OA) were tested. Free-living gait was characterized as the volume, pattern, and variability of ambulatory bouts (Macro), and 14 discrete gait characteristics (Micro). Macro and Micro variables were quantified from free-living data collected using an accelerometer positioned on the low back for one week.


Macro variables showed that fallers walked with shorter and less variable ambulatory bouts than nonfallers, independent of pathology. Micro variables within ambulatory bouts showed fallers walked with slower, shorter and less variable steps than nonfallers. Significant interactions showed disease specific differences in variability with PD fallers demonstrating greater variability (step length) and OA fallers less variability (step velocity) than their nonfaller counterparts (p < 0.004).


Common and disease-specific changes in free-living Macro and Micro gait highlight generic and selective targets for intervention depending on type of faller (OA-PD). Our findings support free-living monitoring to enhance assessment. Future work is needed to confirm the optimal battery of measures, sensitivity to change and value for fall prediction.


Falls; Gait; Parkinsons; Wearable Technology

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center