In a recently completed study, Texas A&M researchers have identified women and people with difficulty walking among groups of pedestrians more than 50 years old who are most afraid of falling, a fear that ultimately leads, they said, to a reduced quality of life.
A poster designed by Texas A&M Ph.D. urban and regional sciences student Sungmin Lee, illustrating the researchers' findings, captured an award at a recent conference hosted by a national research foundation. The poster also includes recommendations for urban planners and public health professionals to reduce fear of falling among people in the study's age group.
Sungmin, who also participated in the research project, received the honor, the Excellence in Safety Research for Active Living Poster Award, at the Active Living Research Conference, Jan. 31 – Feb. 3, 2016, in Clearwater Beach, Fla. The conference was hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which supports research and programs throughout the nation that aim to provide people with equal opportunities to pursue healthy lives.
In the 2-year, $80,000 study funded by Baylor Scott & White Health, Chanam Lee, professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, and fellow researchers found that pedestrians’ fear of falling leads to a loss of confidence in mobility, decreased social interactions and a lack of physical activities, factors that reduce the quality of life among older adults who may feel more vulnerable to environmental risks.
Sungmin used an array of graphics, graphs, tables and images to create a poster that lucidly illustrates the research team’s findings, the concept behind the research, the research methods, and characteristics of the study’s subjects.
In the study, researchers surveyed 394 subjects age 50 and up to identify risk factors associated with fear of falling outdoors in their neighborhood.
They found that the fear of falling is almost 5 times larger for women than men, 4 times larger for those who have difficulty walking, almost 6 times larger for those who perceived that sidewalks in their neighborhood were broken, but 72 percent lower for those who perceived that traffic was slower on their neighborhood's streets than those who did not.
“Policy and design strategies aimed at developing walkable environments by improving pavements or street design, increasing physical security, or providing well-maintained street conditions will help promote safe, equitable, and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood environments,” said the researchers in an “Implications for Practice and Policy” section on the poster.
Additional project researchers were Samuel Forjuoh, a lecturer at the School of Public Health, Marcia Ory, professor and associate dean of health promotion and community health sciences, Samuel D. Towne Jr., research assistant professor of health promotion & community health sciences, Suojin Wang, professor of statistics and Jae Woong Won, a Ph.D. Urban & Regional Science student.