Relationship between dual-task related gait changes and intrinsic risk factors for falls among transitional frail older adults

Olivier Beauchet, Véronique Dubost, François Herrmann, Muriel Rabilloud, Régis Gonthier, Reto W Kressig
Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 2005, 17 (4): 270-5

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Gait changes in dual-task conditions have been associated with an increased risk of falling in older adults, and become more important in increasingly frail older adults. We studied the relationship between commonly known intrinsic risk factors for falls and dual-task related gait changes among transitional frail older adults.

METHODS: Walking time and number of steps were measured while walking alone and while walking with counting backward on a 10-m walkway in 66 transitional frail older adults (mean age 83.6+/-6.1, 84.9% women). Uni- and multiple linear regression analyses were performed to explore the relationship between dual-task related gait changes (walking time and number of steps) and age over 85 years, polymedication, psychoactive drugs, poor distance vision, abnormal mobility and cognitive impairment.

RESULTS: Compared with walking alone, both walking time and number of steps increased significantly while counting backward (p<0.001). Polymedication and abnormal mobility were associated with a significant increase of walking time and number of steps (p<0.01 for unadjusted change, p<0.05 for adjusted change).

CONCLUSIONS: Dual-task related gait changes were closely correlated with polymedication and impaired mobility in our sample of transitional frail older adults. These findings give some insight into the complexity of performing attention-demanding tasks while walking and accentuate the need for multi-factorial, personalized intervention strategies, to prevent decline in dual-task performance in this fall-prone population.

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