Elderly face greater road risks
Resource type: News
The Irish Times |
by EITHNE DONNELLAN OLDER PEOPLE do not have sufficient time to cross the road safely at many pedestrian crossings in Dublin as a result of the way traffic lights are currently sequenced, a new study has found. The research, presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Irish Gerontological Society in Kilkenny at the weekend, found that while the green light at pedestrian crossings is usually on for six seconds, the length the amber light stays on varies with the width of the road, allowing a second for each 1.2m of road width that pedestrians cross. This assumes a minimum pedestrian walking speed of 120cms per second but the Technology Research for Independent Living Centre in Dublin found older people didn’t walk that fast. They looked at the walking speeds of 82 people over the age of 60 years between August and December last year before making their finding. And their measurements did not even take into account obstacles older people could encounter on a busy street like other pedestrians, stepping down off a footpath or having to look right and left. The authors of the study noted that while exceptions to the rule exist, the standard time allowed by the amber light pelican crossings appears insufficient. We recommend this be addressed within the Government’s plan to combat discrimination and promote safety for older people, they said. Prof Rose Anne Kenny, professor of gerontology at Trinity College Dublin who was involved in the study, said the study would now be repeated among 10,000 older people across the State to see if the findings were nationally representative. The issue being looked at, she added, was very important given the projected increase in our older population. It’s estimated one million people will be over 65 years in the Republic by 2040. Local authorities have to take cognisance of this demographic shift, she said. Meanwhile, another study led by Dr Joe Harbison, stroke specialist at St James’s, and presented at the meeting found the reorganisation of stroke services at St James’s Hospital had significantly reduced the number of bed days used by stroke patients at the hospital. The services were reorganised in late 2007 with the establishment of a dedicated stroke team and daily consultant-led ward rounds, backed up by daily clinics for patients who suffer mini strokes with regular follow-up in outpatients to prevent them getting major strokes. The result has been a drop in bed occupancy by stroke patients at the hospital equivalent to 22 per cent. This would be equivalent to nearly 4,400 bed days if sustained throughout the year, the study found. A further piece of research presented, this time on noise pollution on hospital wards, found patients would benefit from being given earphones or earplugs.