Aging Delays the Perception of Falling
It takes older adults twice as long as younger people to realize they are falling, increasing their risk for serious injury, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans, according to the CDC, and the leading cause of death and hospitalization in Canada.
Twenty to 30 percent of older Canadians fall each year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Results of this study suggest aging diminishes the nervous system's ability to detect a fall and compensate with protective reflexes, significantly increasing the risk of injury or death.
For the study, researchers measured fall perception by presenting study participants with a sound and different times relative to a supervised fall. Young adults needed about 44 milliseconds between the sound and fall to perceive both cues simultaneously. But adults over age 60 needed about 88 milliseconds, meaning that by the time they realized they were falling, it was too late to protect themselves from injury.