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Reply with quote  #1 
 Any input on what causes the oldster shuffle? My mother walks now without lifting either foot, and it almost seems she doesn't even bend her knees. She's another fall waiting to happen. Everywhere I took her today I was very aware of this bizarre way of walking, which I also see many other elderly people doing.
Can anyone explain the body mechanics of this? She's got a PT going out to her house - I may get their number and ask them.

Reply with quote  #2 
I saw somewhere that it had to do with their fear of falling. Older people begin to look at their feet instead of where they are going, and shuffle more instead of lifting their feet. They think this will help prevent a fall, when in fact they are more prone to falls. Looking down at their feet, they do not see what is around them, or what is in front of them, and so bump into things more, causing a fall. By not picking up their feet they can stumble more that if they did pick up their feet.

Wish I could remember where I read that. If I find it I will post the article.

Reply with quote  #3 
This is one article about it, not the one I remember, but it does have some good information"
Associated Press

Study Says "Thinking Old" May Make The Elderly Shuffle
November 2, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) — Negative stereotypes about getting old can hurt how people function, says a study that found healthy elderly people could suddenly walk faster when they were subconsciously fed positive images of aging.

How well older people walk — both their speed and whether they shuffle unsteadily — can predict their future health and independence. Falls are a huge health problem, and doctors recommend exercise programs for even the very elderly to strengthen muscles important for walking and balance.

But the new study, published today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggests the mind also may play a powerful role — and that bleak expectations of aging may hurt even healthy people's strides.

"The effects are pretty profound," said lead researcher Jeffrey Hausdorff, a gerontologist at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who invented thin, electronic shoe soles that precisely measure gait.

"It means we need to think about trying to reduce the stereotypes of aging," he added. "We concentrate a lot on physical function and things related to that. This shows other aspects of aging are also important."

Doctors have long explored the mind's role in medicine. Case in point: The "placebo effect" where some ill patients get better if they think the sugar pills they swallow are really drugs. Also, psychological studies suggest subconscious messages can influence perceptions.

That's where stereotypes enter. Harvard University graduate student Becca Levy conducted experiments that found negative stereotypes of aging worsened people's memory and self-confidence, while positive stereotypes improved them. But, she wondered, would those stereotypes also affect physical function?

Walking is a good test. Walking speed declines with age, and the elderly often shuffle because of poor balance. So Levy and Hausdorff tested 47 men and women, ages 63 to 82, who walked without a cane or walker.

First, participants walked a hallway almost the length of a football field. Using Hausdorff's special invention, the walkers' speed and "swing time," the time a foot spends off the ground, were recorded.

Then participants played a brief computer game. Positive words — such as "wise," "astute" or "accomplished" — flashed on half the screens just long enough to register subconsciously. Negative words — such as "senile," "dependent" and "diseased" — flashed to the other half.

Then they walked that long hallway again. This time, the positively influenced people walked 9 percent faster — improvement similar to some exercises. "Swing time" also increased, meaning they shuffled a little less.

Maybe positive stereotypes "change their mood or self-confidence and that impacts their behavior," theorized Levy, now an assistant professor at Yale University.

Walking didn't change for the negatively influenced people, who presumably already were exposed to society's negative stereotypes, she said.

Nobody knows how long the positive effects last, or if positive thinking also could help patients with arthritis, Parkinson's or other gait-altering diseases, said Hausdorff, who is continuing the research.

The finding "is an interesting one, and it makes sense in the context of ... the multiple factors that play a role in balance problems," said geriatric specialist Chhanda Dutta of the National Institutes of Health.

Why do the elderly have problems walking? Hausdorff explains with a demonstration: Strap 10-pound weights to each ankle, simulating how heavy a muscle-wasted leg is to lift, and don a pair of taped-over glasses to simulate bad eyesight. A youthful stride immediately turns to a tentative shuffle; the feet even turn in a way that skews balance.

There are good ways to avoid falls, Dutta said: Muscle-strengthening exercises that even 90-year-olds can do, adjusting medications that skew balance, proper eye care and clearing clutter from walking paths.

But one study that found tai chi improves the elderly's balance also concluded the exercise provides "a better self-awareness, self-perception of their body." Dutta said that finding fits with the new study's emphasis on positive thinking.

Reply with quote  #4 
My mom has the "oldster shuffle", she will not left her feet when she walks.
She's fallen a few things and I agree it's her fear of falling that keeps her with the shuffle.  But she has also tripped because of her not lifting her feet.
My mom is so unsteady on her feet now, she has to use a cane in the house and a walker in public.   When left standing without her cane, she looks like a young child just learning to walk.    She's 80 and she's been like this since her hospitalization three years ago.  Everything changed after she spent weeks in bed.   It's very sad to see how soft my elderly mom has become.
Reply with quote  #5 

The shuffle often does come from poor balance but also may be a sign of some diseases, such as Parkinson's. It bears discussion with the doctor. PT can help if done daily. My mother had Parkinson's and got over the shuffle with daily exercise, medication and constant nagging.

Reply with quote  #6 
As it's not mentioned, I'll ask. Do these folks with the shuffle use a walker at all? (That would a frame for our European friends).

If not, it might be worth while to look into getting one.
Reply with quote  #7 

The shuffle brought on use of a walker for my mother.

Reply with quote  #8 
My dad started getting unsteady on his feet so we got him a walker.
It really helped him and he really walked faster with it.
Then six months later I noticed the "shuffle".  I don't know if it's the walker or just his age (82).  But the walker is a lifesaver or he would have been in a wheelchair.
Reply with quote  #9 

hello, just doing a search, my father just turned 59 years old and is in good health, he has been having this issue for years now. it has gotten worse. now when i walk next to him even slowly, he looks like he's going to trip over his own feet. very poor balace. when he trys to walk up steps or on uneven surfaces he will trip alot. i am tring to get him to go back to the doctors. he has gone in the past, and they said exercise. im wondering if its a deeper issue.

Lynn from Oz
Reply with quote  #10 
Dear Ryan,
I would get your father to go to the doctor. He is still young and should not have a shuffling gait.He is the same age as a lot of us here.
I don't want to alarm you but it could be a sign of a neurological disorder such as Parkinsons (but then it may not be due to this)Regards

Never Get Away
Reply with quote  #11 
Everything changed after she spent weeks in bed.  Claire

Bed rest is a prescription for muscle atrophy.

My mother is spending more and more of her day supine  recently. 
I wish I could convince her that the less she does the less she will be able to do. Her core muscles are getting weak, but like everything else said to her, it makes her mad to be told to keep moving. "Leave me alone, I'm old. I can do what I want."

Reply with quote  #12 
Dear E,

I agree with the others, it sounds like Parkinson's Disease.  My FIL did not have any other symptoms other than shuffling and "frozen" feet.  He had two failed back surgeries, thinking that something was compressing on his nerves, but in hindsite, I think it was the Parkinson's.

Good Luck to you - Jennifer 
Never Get Away
Reply with quote  #13 

On this video you can see the Parkinson's shuffle.

Reply with quote  #14 

 Or a stroke could cause it. My Mother's shuffle started after her stroke.

Reply with quote  #15 
Hi all,

I wish mother could walk as well as the man in the video. 

She doesn't so much shuffle as scoot.  Hardly raises her feet, barely bends her knees, stares straight down.  Very slow...  Moves her feet maybe two inches with each step.  Turning around is a matter of six or seven separate movements.  Her balance isn't good either, even when she uses her quad cane.  (Can't use a walker - no use of her left arm.)

I discussed the gait problem with her doctor.  He said it wasn't Parkinsons - it was one of the first signs of dementia.  Apparently, she has to think through every movement.  Her brain is no longer automatically sending 'walk' signals to her legs and feet. 

An MRI showed no signs of a stroke.

I don't believe it's a strength issue.  This was going on long before she broke her hip so I don't think it's a result of being incapacitated.  She propels her wheelchair using her feet.  She didn't have a wheelchair until after the hip fracture, claims she only needs it for 'speed'.

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