Timed Traffic Crosswalks Too Fast for Many Elderly: Study

Pedestrians' speed slows with age, making it hard to cross roads safely, study says

THURSDAY, June 14, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Most older people can't walk fast enough to cross a street in the time allotted by many automated crosswalks, according to a new British study.

Researchers compared the average walking speed of people aged 65 and older who took part in the Health Survey for England with the speed needed to make it through a timed pedestrian crossing, which is nearly 4 feet per second in the United Kingdom and many other parts of the world.

The study found that the average walking speed was about 3 feet per second for older men and about 2.5 feet per second for older women. As age increased, walking speed slowed, said Dr. Laura Asher, of University College London, and colleagues.

The study is published June 14 in the journal Age and Ageing.

The ability to cross roads safely is extremely important for older adults. "It affects older adults' health, as they are more likely to avoid crossing a busy road," Asher said.

"Walking is an important activity for older people, as it provides regular exercise and direct health benefits," Asher said in a journal news release. "Being unable to cross a road may deter them from walking, reducing their access to social contacts and interaction, local health services, and shops, which are all important in day-to-day life."

Overall, 76 percent of men and 85 percent of women in the study had a walking speed slower than the required speed. The researchers also found that 84 percent of men and 93 percent of women had a walking impairment.

"Older pedestrians are more likely to be involved in a road traffic collision than younger people, due to slower walking speed, slower decision-making and perceptual difficulties," Asher said. "Older people who are hit are also more likely to die from their injuries than younger people."

Communities should consider increasing the time allowed at crosswalks, she added.

More information

The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging offers walking tips for older adults.

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