Background: The visual system plays an important role in maintaining balance. As a person ages, gait becomes slower and stride becomes shorter, especially in dimly lighted environments. Falls risk has been associated with reduced speed and increased gait variability. Methods. Twenty-four older adults (half identified at risk for falls) experienced three lighting conditions: pathway illuminated by 1) general ceiling-mounted fixtures, 2) conventional plug-in night lights and 3) plug-in night lights supplemented by laser lines outlining the pathway. Gait measures were collected using the GAITRite walkway system. Results: Participants performed best under the general ceiling-mounted light system and worst under the night light alone. The pathway plus night lights increased gait velocity and reduced step length variability compared to the night lights alone in those at greater risk of falling. Conclusions: Practically, when navigating in more challenging environments, such as in low-level ambient illumination, the addition of perceptual cues that define the horizontal walking plane can potentially reduce falls risks in older adults.
- and falls risk
- perceptual cues