A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society says that the medication Ritalin (methylphenidate), often prescribed to treat hyperactive children, may also be used to prevent elderly people from falling.
"After only one dose of Ritalin, seniors walked with a steadier gait and performed better on a standard screening test for fall risk," according to findings by Jeffrey Hausdorff at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.
The medication was shown to help improve cognitive abilities in aging people, according to a study of 26 healthy seniors who lived independently.
Some were given a placebo, and others Ritalin -- the most popular brand name for the generic stimulant methylphenidate -- before being asked to rise from a sitting position, walk 10 feet (three meters), walk back and sit down.
The ones who took Ritalin "performed the test quicker and had less variability in their 'stride time,' a common sign of instability," researchers found.
Hausdorff described the notion of treating fall risk with a pill as an "intriguing concept," but noted that "it is still too early to recommend Ritalin on a wide-scale basis."
He added that some studies have found that more than half of seniors who fall and break a hip will die within a year of the incident.