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Safety on stairs: Influence of a tread edge highlighter and its position

Foster, RJ, Hotchkiss, J, Buckley, JG and Elliott, DB (2014) Safety on stairs: Influence of a tread edge highlighter and its position. Experimental Gerontology, 55. pp. 152-158. ISSN 0531-5565

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Background: Falls sustained when descending stairs are the leading cause of accidental death in older adults. Highly visible edge highlighters/friction strips (often set back from the tread edge) are sometimes used to improve stair safety, but there is no evidence for the usefulness of either.
Objective: To determine whether an edge highlighter and its location relative to the tread edge affect foot placement/clearance and accidental foot contacts when descending stairs.
Method: Sixteen older adults (mean ± 1 SD age; 71 ± 7 years) with normal vision (experiment 1) and eight young adults (mean ± 1 SD age; 24 ± 4 years) with visual impairment due to simulated age-related cataract (experiment 2) completed step descent trials during which a high contrast edge highlighter was either not present, placed flush with the tread edge, or set back from the edge by 10 mm or 30 mm. Foot placement/clearance and the number of accidental foot contacts were compared across conditions.
Results: In experiment 1, a highlighter set back by 30 mm led to a reduction in final foot placement (p < 0.001) and foot clearance (p < 0.001) compared to a highlighter placed flush with the tread edge, and the percentage of foot clearances that were less than 5 mm increased from 2% (abutting) to 17% (away30). In experiment 2, a highlighter placed flush with the tread edge led to a decrease in within-subject variability in final foot placement (p = 0.004) and horizontal foot clearance (p = 0.022), a decrease in descent duration (p = 0.009), and a decrease in the number of low clearances (< 5 mm, from 8% to 0%) and the number of accidental foot contacts (15% to 3%) when compared to a tread edge with no highlighter present.
Conclusions: Changes to foot clearance parameters as a result of highlighter presence and position suggest that stairs with high-contrast edge highlighters positioned flush with the tread edge will improve safety on stairs, particularly for those with age-related visual impairment.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 11 Medical and Health Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QM Human anatomy
Q Science > QP Physiology
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2020 10:07
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 07:52
DOI or ID number: 10.1016/j.exger.2014.04.009
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/12291
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