Effect of compliant flooring on postural stability in an older adult population and in individuals with Parkinson's disease

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Advisor: Kimberly E. Bigelow


Balance, or the ability to stand upright unassisted without falling, is affected by the brain's ability to process sensory information from an individual's visual, vestibular and proprioceptive inputs. Neurological and elderly patients, including those with Parkinson's Disease (PD), often have problems in these systems and therefore struggle with balance, putting them at a higher risk of falling. Nearly 40% of falls in populations over 65 years old result in admission to the hospital for some type of treatment. Designing environments, particularly flooring, to enhance balance and reduce falls in public buildings, especially rehabilitation centers and hospitals, is a necessary consideration. Novel compliant floors are commercially available and are able to absorb energy from a fall, reducing injuries. Initial studies have shown the promise of such floors, but have not looked at how individuals recover from functional movements on the floors. It was the objective of this study to extend findings to determine whether compliant flooring has an effect on postural stability during quiet standing for a more diverse and more impaired population than previously studied. Then the first studies to examine the effect of compliant flooring on postural stability following a dynamic, functional movement were performed. Thirty older healthy individuals and ten individuals with PD performed tasks of quiet-standing as well as functional movements such as sit-to-stand transitions while standing on a balance plate. These tasks were performed on the flat plate surface, as well as on two different compliant floors placed on top of the balance plate. From the collected center of pressure (COP) data A/P Sway Range, M/L Sway Range, Mean Velocity, and Area of 95% Confidence Ellipse were calculated. It was found that compliant flooring caused increased sway (p<0.05) in all four parameters during quiet standing in healthy older adults and increased sway (p<0.05) in A/P Sway Range during quiet standing in older adults with Parkinson's Disease. Stabilization immediately post-transition displayed increased sway upon completion of the movement, but there was no statistical differences between the flooring (p<0.05) for healthy older adults and older adults with Parkinson's Disease. Because the quiet standing differences were small in magnitude and the stabilization post-transition were non-significant; it is felt that the compliant flooring may not cause more falls and therefore with further research, have the potential for being used as an effective approach to fall injury prevention for high fall risk populations.


Resilient flooring Testing, Equilibrium of flexible surfaces, Falls (Accidents) Prevention, Older people Orientation and mobility, Parkinson's disease Patients Orientation, Human beings Attitude and movement, Biomechanics; engineering; mechanical engineering; posturography; fall prevention; Parkinsons disease; compliant floors; balance; hip fractures

Rights Statement

Copyright 2013, author