Purpose: To examine the effects of gaze position and optical blur, similar to that used in multifocal corrections, on stepping accuracy for a precision stepping task among older adults.
Methods: Nineteen healthy older adults (mean age, 71.6 ± 8.8 years) with normal vision performed a series of precision stepping tasks onto a fixed target. The stepping tasks were performed using a repeated-measures design for three gaze positions (fixating on the stepping target as well as 30 and 60 cm farther forward of the stepping target) and two visual conditions (best-corrected vision and with +2.50DS blur). Participants’ gaze position was tracked using a head-mounted eye tracker. Absolute, anteroposterior, and mediolateral foot placement errors and within-subject foot placement variability were calculated from the locations of foot and floor-mounted retroreflective markers captured by flash photography of the final foot position.
Results: Participants made significantly larger absolute and anteroposterior foot placement errors and exhibited greater foot placement variability when their gaze was directed farther forward of the stepping target. Blur led to significantly increased absolute and anteroposterior foot placement errors and increased foot placement variability. Furthermore, blur differentially increased the absolute and anteroposterior foot placement errors and variability when gaze was directed 60 cm farther forward of the stepping target.
Conclusions: Increasing gaze position farther ahead from stepping locations and the presence of blur negatively impact the stepping accuracy of older adults. These findings indicate that blur, similar to that used in multifocal corrections, has the potential to increase the risk of trips and falls among older populations when negotiating challenging environments where precision stepping is required, particularly as gaze is directed farther ahead from stepping locations when walking.
*BAppSc(Optom), MPH, PhD
School of Optometry and Vision Science and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (all authors).
Alex Black School of Optometry and Vision Science Queensland University of Technology Victoria Park Rd Kelvin Grove Queensland 4059 Australia e-mail: email@example.com