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Measurement of Centre of Pressure using the Wii Balance Board in Older Adults with Simulated Visual Impairment

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Postural stability is a complex skill dependent upon the coordination of motor, sensory and cognitive systems (Woollacott & Shumway-Cook, 2002). The purpose of this project was therefore to explore how older adults' balance performance is impacted by increased cognitive load, hearing loss, and simulated vision loss. Twenty-seven older adults between the ages of 56 and 90 years (M = 74.74, SD = 9.51) were tested. Participants underwent standard sensory acuity, and cognitive functioning tests. The balance trials varied as a function of cognitive load and visual challenge resulting in five conditions: (1) eyes closed, (2) normal vision clear goggles (NV), (3) simulated low vision goggles (LV), (4) NV and math task, (5) LV and math task. Postural stability was assessed with three key center of pressure parameters: total path length (TPL), anterior-posterior amplitude (APA) and medial-lateral amplitude (MLA). Significant effects of balance complexity were observed in anterior-posterior sway amplitude (p < .017), while MLA (p < .08) and TPL approached significance (p < .107). T-tests revealed significant (p < .05) decreases in balance performance across all 3 centre of pressure parameters when comparing single-task NV to dual-task NV, single-task NV vs. eyes closed and single-task NV vs. low vision dual-task.

There were significant positive correlations between hearing loss and balance (MLA) under single-task normal vision (r = .517) and low vision goggle conditions (r = .498). Results suggest the attentional demands from increased cognitive load and sensory loss lead to decreases in older adults' single- and dual-task balance performance. Finally, older adults with age-related hearing loss seemed to prioritize the cognitive task over the postural task, resulting in cognitive facilitation. This prioritization may be an ineffective dual-task strategy putting older adults with age-related hearing loss at risk of falling.


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