Crossing the road in time: Inequalities in older people's walking speeds.

Authors:  Elizabeth A. Webb , Steven Bell , Rebecca E. Lacey and Jessica G. Abell
Type: Journal article
Publication date: August 2017
Published in:  Journal of Transport & Health Vol. 5, pp. 77-83
DOI: 10.1016/j.jth.2017.02.009.

Abstract

Pedestrian crossings in the UK and US require people to walk at 1.2 m/s to cross the road in time; however a large proportion of older people do not walk this fast, potentially discouraging walking or putting older people at risk of injury. We use longitudinal data to investigate changes in walking speed, and ability to cross the road in time, at older ages. 31,015 walking speed measurements were taken from 10,249 men and women aged 60+ years in waves 1-7 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (2002-2014). Growth curve analyses were used to model how walking speed changes with increasing age, and predicted probabilities of being able to cross the road in time were estimated. 10% of measured walking speeds were fast enough to cross the road in time. Walking speed declined with age (-5.7×10-3m/s/yr (95% CI -7.6×10-3, -3.9×10-3)), and the decline accelerated with increasing age (-0.3 ×10-3m/s/yr (-0.4 ×10-3, -0.3 ×10-3)). Female, less wealthy and less healthy older people had slower walking speeds. For instance, predicted probability of crossing the road in time at age 60 was 14.8% (10.1, 18.5) and 2.7% (1.5, 3.8) for the richest and poorest men and 8.4% (6.0, 1.1) and 1.5% (0.9, 2.2) for the richest and poorest women, and at age 80 they were 7.1% (3.6, 10.5) and 1.0% (0.3, 1.7) for the richest and poorest men and 3.7% (1.6, 5.9) and 0.5% (0.1, 0.9) for the richest and poorest women. Most older people do not walk fast enough to cross the road in time. Even the majority of the wealthiest and healthiest people aged 60 years and older do not walk fast enough to cross pedestrian crossings in the allocated time. Crossing times should be increased to allow for older peoples' slower walking speeds or other policies considered to improve walkability, and to help avoid injuries and social isolation.

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