Walk and Talk
Few things are more important than the ability to move and the ability to communicate. However, research indicates that completing both of these seemingly simple tasks at the same time may pose more of a challenge than one might expect. A University-based study conducted with seniors on the effect of task prioritization revealed that the attentional demands of maintaining upright posture while walking may make communication a challenge. A common way that many older adults cope with this challenge is by reducing the amount of secondary activities they take part in while walking. While this may be a temporary solution, allowing them to focus more on the task of walking itself, in the long-term those seniors who do not practice the skill of dual-tasking will be at a much higher risk for falls.
The ability to dual-task is required for the majority of our Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s). According to Fullerton Universities FallProof program some examples of ADL’s that require dual-tasking include:
- Taking care of personal needs (e.g., dressing oneself)
- Light household cleaning/activities
- Shopping for and carrying groceries/clothing
- Getting in and out of a vehicle
- Walking or caring for a pet
- Opening a door to enter or exit a building
Inability to split one’s attention amongst multiple tasks significantly increases the probability of a fall. One study revealed that 85% of seniors who were unable to walk and talk at the same time took a fall within six months of the original study (Lundin-Olsson et al.,1997). Similar studies published after this initial test all revealed the same indicating that the inability to walk and talk showed positive predictive value (PPV) for an increase in fall risk.
The great news is that the skill of dual-tasking may be improved upon at any age. As with any skill, ‘practice makes perfect’ and improvement will be seen through progressively challenging oneself to complete the desired combination of tasks. Sunshine Retirement Living we train all of our Community activity director’s to set up weekly ‘Walk and Talk’s’ that work with individual resident skill levels and progress goals. If you are looking to learn more about the benefits of dual-tasking or would like to join in on a Sunshine Community walk and talk near you, please contact Denise Park.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living