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Monday, 25 January 2021

'Why older people need to be extra careful when wearing masks and how to help'

image from here

"Older people wearing face masks need to take extra care to make sure they don’t trip over obstacles when walking. New advice from UK researchers says that taking more time, both before and during walking, is a good way of staying safe.

The advice is also helpful for anyone whose balance is particularly reliant on vision, such as people with Parkinson’s disease or those whose sensory nerves are impaired by diabetes.

In an editorial published in the British Medical Journal, the academics from Brunel University London and the University of Exeter highlight how face masks obscure the ground just in front of our feet, an issue that’s been missing from guidance about mask safety."

"Masks shall be worn is the order of the day, so we may as well learn to wear them properly. That doesn’t mean just slipping the loops over your ears and fabric over your mouth. Not if you’re old it doesn’t.

Many find that each time a mask is put on and they try to look down they feel they might stumble and that’s because masks shrink your field of vision.

If your vision is a bit dodgy to begin with, as it is in many older people, then wearing a mask can carry the real risk of falling.

Glasses wearers are particularly vulnerable as masks make glasses fog up and blur vision on top of blocking the lower field of vision.

Visual information from your lower peripheral field is important for ­spotting and avoiding approaching hazards and placing your steps safely.

Wearing a face mask makes it ­difficult to gather this important ­information during walking and may increase your chance of tripping or falling, particularly when negotiating obstacles and going downstairs.

Looking down while wearing a mask doesn’t help says Dr. Elmar Kal. Older adults use vision to detect obstacles and plan a safe path to walk. But having to look down more often makes it more difficult to plan ahead.

Recent research using eye tracking shows that older people make greater stepping errors when looking down compared with looking ahead.

Then, to keep your balance, visual information needs to be integrated with spatial information from limbs and joints. Not moving your head and eyes while walking provides a stable visual “anchor” for regulating balance. Looking down often works against this strategy.

It could even cause serious instability as it requires frequent, large movements of the head and eyes.

So, a recommendation to “look down” when wearing a mask may paradoxically impair stability by ­interfering with the fine tuning of vision we use to keep walking safely.

This will affect not only older adults, but anyone who is reliant on visions for balance, such as people with Parkinson’s disease or diabetic neuropathy.

How can we minimise the effects of masks on walking safety? Kal advises a tight fit around the nose and cheeks.

You should always take your time, rather than looking down, before starting to walk and then walk more slowly so you have enough time to see hazards ahead and plot a safe route.

A slow pace also means you don’t need rapid head and eye movements while walking."

Good tips! And maybe we should think about ­transparent masks?

‘Face masks, vision, and risk of falls’, by Elmar Kal (Brunel University London), Will Young (University of Exeter) and Toby Ellmers (Exeter/Brunel), is published in the British Medical Journal.

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All the best Jan

44 comments:

Tom said...

...getting older isn't for sissies.

L said...

👍👍👍❤️

Valerie-Jael said...

Good advice! We even do our sports in masks, not always easy! Valerie

Sami said...

Good advice. Just last week my sister's father in law, 92 years old but in excellent health, fell when he went to put out the rubbish outside the building where he lived, and was taken to hospital where he then caught bacterial pneumonia and died a few days later.

Anne C said...

Very timely information. I've forwarded a link to a physical therapist friend who does a lot of work regarding balance and osteoporosis.

DVArtist said...

Great post. I wear a mask and a shield and being careful is my one thought.

Pam said...

My issue is a thing with balance....haha. Yesterday I heard on the news that our new president thinks that we prob need to be wearing TWO mask and not just the one. YIKES....I understand the thought and what he is trying to do BUT...I can't breathe in one mask, let alone two. Guessing I will start ordering on line yet again. Esp once summer gets here, I love to walk around the garden shops but with most being outside, in the summer I can't do it. I hate how our world has changed. Please be safe out there.

linda said...

Yes that is so true they do impair your vision, they are also post a huge challenge for the hearing impaired who rely on lip reading like myself. I think transparent masks are a great idea.

Creations By Cindy said...

I personally have found this to be true. Thank you for sharing your information. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

Inger said...

Great advice, thank you. I never thought of this as I'm wearing my mask. Since I live in the country and order pick up from the grocery story, I don't walk much wearing a mask, but I have a post office box that I must empty a few times a week so I will pay more attention and maybe use my cane for balance. Falling when old is no fun, I've done that.

DUTA said...

The only inconvenience I've noticed is that it might interfere with breathing if worn for more than half an hour. A cousin of mine,puts two masks on her face before she leaves the house to go to the supermarket.She considers it 'a must'.

Emma Springfield said...

Wonderful tips. Thank you.

Elephant's Child said...

My balance is uncertain even without a mask. Thanks for the tips.

CJ Kennedy said...

Good info

Jeanie said...

This is really useful. I have a few masks I love because they fit fairly closely below the eyes and aren't puffy and are easier to see through (and actually, breathe in).And some make it a little more difficult. I am always conscious of looking ahead a few feet to be sure there are no obstacles in the way when I walk.I confess, I have tripped more times on things right in front of me (even without a mask!) when I don't start looking ahead! Then a sharp and not always pleasant reminder!

bill burke said...

This is really great advice. Thanks for sharing.

Christine said...

Great advice, we have to slow down.

chica said...

Que interessante e pode fazer sentido.Cuidado sempre, mas USAR másdcara é preciso! beijos, chica

This N That said...

Interesting. I never noticed a problem. I guess that’s because I am very careful to look where I am walking. Have a good week

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

I agree with Tom's statement.

I learned wearing a mask for a long period of time has an effect on the amount of oxygen that gets to my lungs. I had an unexpected burst of dizziness shortly after I took the mask off and breathed free fresh air again.

Debbie said...

great tips and information!! i rarely go anywhere, so i rarely wear a mask....but next time i do, i will remember this!!

happyone said...

Makes sense. Good information.

Hootin' Anni said...

This is a great issue to cover these days for those that are aged or vision impaired.

carol l mckenna said...

Fantastic post and so relevant to the times we all are living in each day ~ right now.
Thanks ^_^

Moment by moment,

A ShutterBug Explores,
aka (A Creative Harbor)

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I found this extremely informative. Thanks for this.

Magic Love Crow said...

Thanks for the tips! I live with two older parents! I appreciate this post very much! Big Hugs!

Lorrie said...

Sensible words. I found that I have to be careful going down stairs at school and have learned to wear my mask a bit differently so that my vision is not impaired.

William Kendall said...

Wise advice.

peppylady (Dora) said...

The only issue here is non mask people and or who walks around with on chin or head.
Stay Safe and Coffee is on

Betty said...

It's a good point, I find my mask obscures my vision as you said.Thanks for the post :)

Margaret D said...

Lovely post and safety of the elderly wearing masks.

Linda said...

I haven't had that problem but my masks are fairly snug. Wearing glasses is definitely a challenge with masks though. Fortunately I only need them to read small print.

Bob Bushell said...

Careful while you're walking and wearing a mask, thanks Jan.

Francisco Manuel Carrajola Oliveira said...

Muito interessante.
Um abraço e boa semana.

Andarilhar
Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
O prazer dos livros

Sara - Villa Emilia (My Woodland Garden) said...

Hello Jan, what an interesting and important post!
Thank you for your kind comment. We have some health issues in our family now. I'm looking forward to reading your posts with more time.
Take care!

Iris Flavia said...

Take me into the "older" ones. I just turned 49 and have bad sight with the mask, too, especially when glasses are foggy on top. Plus I can hardly breathe...

Sue said...

It's the glasses thing with me, I can't shop without my glasses but they do fog up lol x

Snowbird said...

This is such an interesting post, and much needed.xxx

Teresa said...

Gracias por toda la información. Besos.

NatureFootstep said...

The best I have read about the use of masks ever! They never talks of the downsides of using them. Like fog on glasses and danger of trippling.
Thanks for sharing :)

Conniecrafter said...

I never thought about this with our older population, I just know that wearing glasses is a pain with the mask at times when it fogs up.

Jenn Jilks said...

It's so tricky being older period!
Not just with masks.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Nothing is ever simple, is it? And to think I have just been putting on my mask and walking around all this time not knowing of these dire hazards!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Very sensible advice. If you wear glasses, you can help avoid your glasses fogging up by making sure not only that the mask fits tightly around your nose and cheeks but that your glasses sit on top of the mask.