The visual control of locomotion when stepping onto moving surfaces: a comparison of younger and older adults

Rhys Hunt, Chris Mills, Gillian Frost, Tim Blackmore, Matt Miller-Dicks*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Stepping between static and moving surfaces presents a locomotor challenge associated with increased injury frequency and severity in older adults. The current study evaluates younger and older adults' behaviours when overcoming challenges sampling moving walkway and escalator environments. Twelve younger adults (18–40 years, Male = 8) and 15 older adults (60–81 years, Male = 5) were examined using an integration of optoelectronic motion capture and mobile eye-tracking. Participants were investigated approaching and stepping onto a flat conveyor belt (static or moving; with or without surface (demarcation) lines). Specifically, the four conditions were: (i) static surface without demarcation lines; (ii) static surface with demarcation lines; (iii) moving surface without demarcation lines; and (iv) moving surface with demarcation lines.

A two (age group) x two (surface-condition) x two (demarcation-condition) linear mixed-model revealed no main or interaction effects (p > .05) for perturbation magnitude, indicating participants maintained successful locomotion. However, different adaptive behaviours were identified between conditions with moving and accuracy demands (e.g., moving surfaces increased step length, demarcations reduced step length). Between subject effects identified differences between age groups. Older adults utilised different behaviours, such as earlier gaze transfer from the final approach walkway step location. Overall, the current study suggests that adaptive behaviours emerge relative to the environment's specific demands and the individual's action capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112117
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Early online date8 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Adaptive locomotion
  • Affordance based control
  • Ageing

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