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One in three Irish adults aged 65-74 years walk slower than the speed required to cross the road

Using data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), researchers from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland have reported that one in three Irish adults aged 65-74 years do not have enough time to cross the road at pedestrian light crossings. The findings are published in a report released by TILDA on 12th November.

In Ireland, the green man signals an invitation for pedestrians to start to cross the road. The amber man indicates that pedestrians should continue to cross the road if they have already started but that they should not begin to cross. If a pedestrian starts to cross just before the light changes from green to amber, pedestrians must walk at a minimum walking speed of 1.2 metres per second (m/s) to cross the road. Based on their usual walking speed, one in three Irish adults aged 65-74 years and three in five adults aged 75 years and older walk slower than 1.2 m/s and therefore would not have enough time to cross the road in the time provided at the pedestrian crossings. Women walk more slowly than men and therefore, a larger proportion of women are affected compared to men at all ages.

Walking while carrying out another task typically results in even slower walking speeds. Three out of every four Irish adults aged 65 years and older walk slower than 1.2 m/s when performing a cognitive task while walking. This suggests that an education and awareness campaign highlighting the importance of giving full attention to the task of crossing the road and targeting changes in pedestrian behaviour is required.

Speaking about the significance of these findings for older people, lead author Dr. Orna Donoghue, who is Project Manager on TILDA said: “Crossing the road is an important part of everyday life for many people but these findings highlight that pedestrian light settings often do not match older adults’ walking abilities. Not being able to cross the road comfortably can impact on older adults’ social engagement, physical activity, functional independence and quality of life.”

The report illustrates that increasing the duration of the pedestrian light signals would allow a greater proportion of older people to cross the road. However, Dr Donoghue highlighted that “The impact on traffic flow, driver behaviours and the needs of all road users should be considered before introducing a significant change.”

Over the past months, the authors have been working closely with Dublin City Council to review the pedestrian crossings in the city. As a result of this collaboration, the duration of the amber light has been increased at over 30 crossings in Dublin.

Co-author and Principal Investigator of TILDA, Professor Rose Anne Kenny said: “Crossing the road is a concern for many older adults. Ideally, changes to the pedestrian light settings should rely on evidence-based data. TILDA can provide this for older Irish adults and therefore it is in a unique position to contribute to this evidence-base.”

It is important to remember that there are also some steps that pedestrians can take themselves to make crossing the road a more comfortable experience. These include staying physically active to maintain their walking speed, starting to cross the road when the green man appears and avoiding distractions when crossing.

The report is available by contacting the TILDA Team at the details below.

Media Contacts:
Sarah Bowman, Director of Public Engagement, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Trinity College Dublin. Email: bowmans@tcd.ie.

Orna Donoghue, Project Manager, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Trinity College Dublin. Email: odonogh@tcd.ie.