OBJECTIVE: To examine age-related changes in postural stability and sensory system functioning in men aged 30-80 years.
DESIGN: Observational, cross-sectional study.
METHODS: One hundred six healthy men aged 30-80 years participated. Personal characteristics were recorded and outcome measures included: velocity of sway during bilateral stance on a firm and foam surface (eyes open (EO) and eyes closed (EC)), balancing on one leg (EO and EC), lower limb somatosensation (tactile acuity, vibration threshold and joint position error), high-contrast visual acuity (HCVA) and low-contrast visual acuity (LCVA), edge contrast sensitivity and vestibular-ocular reflex (VOR) control.
RESULTS: Men in their 60s and 70s were found to be less stable than the younger age decades when standing on a firm or foam surface. Reduced stability was evident from the 40s to 50s for one-leg-stance (EC). Lower limb somatosensation and HCVA and LCVA were significantly reduced by the 60s but edge contrast sensitivity reduced by the 50s. Age-related changes in VOR control did not emerge until the 70s in this study cohort.
CONCLUSIONS: The results show reduction in postural stability and sensory system functioning in men by the 60s supporting pre-emptive assessment of workers in industries where falls are frequent.