Lighting and perceptual cues: Effects on gait measures of older adults at high and low risk for falls

Mariana G. Figueiro, Barbara Plitnick, Mary S. Rea, Laura Z. Gras, Mark S. Rea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalBMC Geriatrics
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Lighting
  • and falls risk
  • perceptual cues


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