A comparison of gaze behavior among elderly and younger adults during locomotor tasks

  • Fabio E Fontana University of Northern Iowa, School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services, Psychomotor Behavior Laboratory - fabio.fontana@uni.edu
  • Alexandria Uding Washington University in Saint Louis, School of Medicine
  • Andrew Cleneden Creighton University, School of Pharmacy and Health professions
  • Lindsey Cain Department of Nursing
  • Lea Ann Shaddox University of Northern Iowa, School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services, Psychomotor Behavior Laboratory
  • Mick G. Mack University of Northern Iowa, School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services, Psychomotor Behavior Laboratory
Keywords: gaze, elderly, falls, vision, locomotion

Abstract

The purpose of this project was to compare the gaze behavior of older adults to young adults during locomotor tasks requiring participants to change the direction and vary the speed of walking.Older adults were further divided into high- and low-risk of falling groups based on scores in the Berg balance scale and pre-established risk factor criteria. Gaze behavior was measured using the applied sciences eye tracking system as participants walked under four different conditions. The results suggest that, independent of group or target, fixations on target were shorter, the faster participants walked. Results also revealed that older adults at high-risk of falling tended to move their gaze off the to-be-stepped-on target before actually making heel contact with the target, whereas the young and older adults at low-risk of falling did not. Based on these results we recommend warning older adults about the negative effects of walking speed on their ability to recognize and comprehend the challenges on the ground ahead by suggesting they slow down when walking. Another strategy is to train older adults to make heel contact with the ground before transferring their gaze to another aspect of the environment, which may serve to reduce the likelihood of tripping.

Published
2014-07-27
Section
Research Articles