Older adults pay an additional cost when texting and walking: Effects of age, environment, and use of mixed reality on dual-task performance

Tal Krasovsky, Patrice L. Weiss, Rachel Kizony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Texting while walking (TeWW) has become common among people of all ages, and mobile phone use during gait is increasingly associated with pedestrian injury. Although dual-task walking performance is known to decline with age, data regarding the effect of age on dual-task performance in ecological settings are limited. Objective. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of age, environment (indoors/outdoors), and mixed reality (merging of real and virtual environments) on TeWW performance. Design. A cross-sectional design was used. Methods. Young (n = 30; 27.8 ± 4.4 years) and older (n = 20; 68.9 ± 3.9 years) adults performed single- and dual-task texting and walking indoors and outdoors, with and without a mixed reality display. Participants also completed evaluations of visual scanning and cognitive flexibility (Trail Making Test) and functional mobility (Timed "Up & Go" Test). Results. Indoors, similar interference to walking and texting occurred for both groups, but only older adults' gait variability increased under dual task conditions. Outdoors, TeWW was associated with larger age-related differences in gait variability, texting accuracy, and gait dual-task costs. Young adults with better visual scanning and cognitive flexibility performed TeWW with lower gait costs (r = 0.52-0.65). The mixed reality display was unhelpful and did not modify walking or texting. Limitations. Older adults tested in this study were relatively high functioning. Gaze of participants was not directly monitored. Conclusions. Although young and older adults possess the resources necessary for TeWW, older adults pay an additional "price" when dual-tasking, especially outdoors. TeWW may have potential as an ecologically valid assessment and/or an intervention paradigm for dual-task performance among older adults as well as for clinical populations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)549-559
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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