Elderly Pedestrians Unable to Cross Streets in Time
Currently, to use a pedestrian crossing a person must cross at a speed above 1.2 meters per second.
The research led by Dr Laura Asher of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL (University College London), found that the mean walking speed of participants in the Health Survey for England was 0.9 meters per second for older men and 0.8 meters per second for older women.
This is much below the speed required to use a pedestrian crossing in the UK and many other parts of the world. As age increased in the participants, the speed at which they could walk also decreased.
Overall, 76 percent of men and 85 percent of women had a walking speed that was below the required speed of 1.2 meters per second. The research also found that 93 percent of women and 84 percent of men had walking impairment.
"Being able to cross the road is extremely important for local residents. It affects older adults' health, as they are more likely to avoid crossing a busy road. Walking is an important activity for older people as it provides regular exercise and direct health benefits," Laura Asher said.
"Being unable to cross a road may deter them from walking, reducing their access to social contacts and interaction, local health services and shops, that are all important in day to day life.
"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. Older people who are hit are also more likely to die from their injuries than younger people.
"Having insufficient time at a road crossing may not increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities but it will certainly deter this group from even trying to cross the road.
"For older people, the ability to venture outside of the home is not only important for health benefits but is also important to maintain relationships, social networks and independence.
"Physical activity in older residents is dependent on their ability to negotiate their local environment, including crossing a road safely. The groups of people identified in this study as the most vulnerable and as having a walking impairment are also the least likely to have access to other, more expensive, forms of transport," she said.
Asher and her colleagues built upon established knowledge of walking speeds by also showing that the "oldest old", those living in a deprived area, current smokers, and those with a poor grip strength, were most likely to have a walking impairment.
Older adults whose general health was rated as fair or worse, or who had a longstanding illness were also more likely to have a walking impairment.
The cross-sectional study used 2005 data from the Health Survey for England (HSE), a nationally representative survey of adults and children living in private households.
It also included a boost sample of people aged above 65 years old. Data from these participants was collected from an interview and nurse visit. In total, 3,145 older adults received a nurse home visit, with 90 percent of men and 87 percent of women taking the walking speed test.
The study has been published in the journal Age and Ageing.