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Fall-Prone Seniors May Have Trouble Adjusting to Poorer Vision

FRIDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Fall-prone older adults may be more at risk for taking a tumble because they don't slow their walking speed when their vision is impaired, a small new study suggests.

The researchers, Fiona Newell of Trinity College in Dublin and colleagues, looked at five older adults who had fallen at least once in the past year, six older adults who had not fallen, and six younger adults.

The participants' walking was monitored under normal conditions and again when they wore goggles that caused blurred vision.

The walking ability of all three groups was affected by the blurred vision, but especially in the fall-prone older adults. The younger adults and the older adults who hadn't fallen compensated for their blurred vision by slowing their walking speed, but the fall-prone older adults did not, the investigators found.

The fall-prone participants also made more errors in returning to the starting point of the walking course.

The findings suggest that the ability to collect and process the visual information needed to navigate the surrounding environment is more severely impaired in fall-prone older adults than in older adults who have not fallen.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Insight: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness.

About 30 percent of adults over 65 years of age have at least one fall a year and 12 percent of these seniors fall at least twice a year, according to background information in the study.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about falls and older adults.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Insight: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness, news release, Aug. 30, 2011

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