Effect of Environmental Factors on How Older Pedestrians Detect an Upcoming Step

in Lighting Research and Technology, Journal article

Abstract

The relationships between environmental features and older people's ability to safely move around a complex pedestrian environment are, as yet, poorly understood. Specifically, the impact of light levels on trip hazard detection during walking has received relatively little attention. This study investigates the effect of illuminance on people's ability to detect steps of different heights in a laboratory-based controlled environment. Sixteen young and 15 older participants walked along a 13.2 m walkway towards an either ascending or descending step at 200 lux or 4 lux light levels. Trial time, gaze behaviour and distance at which the step was first visually fixated (detection distance) were measured using an eye-tracker. It was found that both the trial time and detection distance of older participants were affected by light level whereas the fixation number and fixation duration of young participants were affected by step-height. Shorter detection distance, greater number of fixations and longer fixation duration were found among older participants as opposed to young participants. The results suggest that the processing efficiency for visual information on an upcoming step is slower among older people than among young people. This implies that the vulnerability of older pedestrians maybe be reduced if better lighting or a simplified visual environment is provided.