OBJECTIVES: To investigate dual-task performance of gait and cognition in cognitively healthy and cognitively impaired older adults using a motor–cognition dual-task paradigm.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional retrospective study.
SETTING: The Basel Memory Clinic and the Basel Study on the Elderly (Project BASEL).
PARTICIPANTS: Seven hundred eleven older adults (mean age 77.2 ± 6.2, 350 (49.2%) female and 361 (50.8%) male).
MEASUREMENTS: Gait velocity and cognitive task performance using a working memory (counting backward from 50 by 2s) and a semantic memory (enumerating animal names) task were measured during single- and dual-task conditions. Gait was assessed using the GAITRite electronic walkway system. Cognitive impairment was defined as a score less than 25 on the Mini-Mental State Examination.
RESULTS: During dual tasks, participants reduced gait velocity (P<.001) and calculated fewer numbers (P=.03) but did not enumerate fewer animals and did not make more errors or repetitions (P>.10). Cognitively impaired individuals had lower baseline gait velocity and a greater reduction in gait velocity but not cognitive performance during dual tasks than cognitively healthy participants (P<.01).
CONCLUSION: Gait velocity was lower during both dual tasks, whereas decrease in cognitive performance depended on the cognitive ability needed in the dual-task condition. Cognitively impaired individuals generally have poorer baseline performance and greater dual task–related gait velocity reduction than those who are cognitively healthy. Future research should include different conditions for gait to determine adaptive potentials of older adults.