Slowing the decline in walking mobility in the elderly is critical for maintaining the quality of life. Wearable assistive devices may 1 day facilitate mobility in older adults; however, we need to ensure that such devices do not impair stability in this population that is predisposed to fall-related injuries. This study sought to quantify the effects of untethered ankle exoskeleton assistance on measures of stability, whole-body dynamics, and strategies to maintain balance during normal and perturbed walking in older adults. Eight healthy participants (69–84 years) completed a treadmill-based walking protocol that included perturbations from unexpected belt accelerations while participants walked with and without ankle exoskeleton assistance. Exoskeleton assistance increased frontal plane range of angular momentum (8–14%, p ≤ 0.007), step width (18–34%, p ≤ 0.006), and ankle co-contraction (21–29%, p ≤ 0.039), and decreased biological ankle moment (16–27%, p ≤ 0.001) during unperturbed and perturbed walking; it did not affect the anteroposterior margin-of-stability, step length, trunk variability, or soleus activity during unperturbed and perturbed walking. Our finding that ankle exoskeleton assistance did not affect the anteroposterior margin-of-stability supports additional investigation of assistive exoskeletons for walking assistance in the elderly.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering