The relation between age-specific postural instability and the detection of stability boundaries was examined. Balance control was investigated under different visual conditions (eyes open/closed) and postural orientations·(forward/backward lean) while standing on a force platform. Dependent variables included center of pressure variability and the time-to-contact of the center of pressure with the stability boundaries around the feet (i.e., time-to-boundary). While leaning maximally, older individuals (ages 55-69) showed increased center of pressure variability compared to no lean, while younger subjects (ages 24-38) showed a decrease. These significant differences were found only in anterior-posterior direction. No significant age-specific differences were found between eyes open and eyes closed conditions. Time-to-boundary analysis revealed reduced spatio-temporal stability margins in older individuals in both anterior-posterior and medio-lateral directions. Time-to-boundary variability, however, was not significantly different between the groups in both medio-lateral and anterior-posterior direction. These results show the importance of boundary relevant center of pressure measures in the study of postural control, especially concerning the lateral instability often observed in older adults. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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