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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 356948, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/356948
Research Article

Falls Risk and Simulated Driving Performance in Older Adults

1Department of Psychology and Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
2Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816, USA

Received 8 November 2012; Accepted 19 January 2013

Academic Editor: Karl Rosengren

Copyright © 2013 John G. Gaspar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Declines in executive function and dual-task performance have been related to falls in older adults, and recent research suggests that older adults at risk for falls also show impairments on real-world tasks, such as crossing a street. The present study examined whether falls risk was associated with driving performance in a high-fidelity simulator. Participants were classified as high or low falls risk using the Physiological Profile Assessment and completed a number of challenging simulated driving assessments in which they responded quickly to unexpected events. High falls risk drivers had slower response times (~2.1 seconds) to unexpected events compared to low falls risk drivers (~1.7 seconds). Furthermore, when asked to perform a concurrent cognitive task while driving, high falls risk drivers showed greater costs to secondary task performance than did low falls risk drivers, and low falls risk older adults also outperformed high falls risk older adults on a computer-based measure of dual-task performance. Our results suggest that attentional differences between high and low falls risk older adults extend to simulated driving performance.