The Zoomer Report: Cell Phones and Zoomers

Lots of studies have shown it isn’t safe to talk on a cellphone while driving. Now there’s evidence that mobile chatting can also impair your judgment when you’re walking — especially if you’re older.

Research in the journal Psychology and Aging suggests that older adults may be putting themselves at risk if they try crossing a relatively busy street while talking on a cellphone. The study involved adults over 59 and university students. The volunteers were monitored as they crossed a simulated road in a virtual-reality lab.

The older adults, who were in good mental and physical health, handled lighter traffic without much difficulty. But they ran into problems once the pace of traffic picked up. They took significantly longer to cross the intersection when they were engaged in a cellphone conversation, compared to not using the device. In particular, they seemed to have a hard time deciding when to step into the street. And their hesitancy often meant they failed to complete the task in the allotted time of 30 seconds.

The younger participants showed no impairment in their ability to multi-task — or walk and talk at the same time.

But that doesn’t mean young pedestrians are immune to the distractions. Researchers say in an earlier study, they also had difficulty crossing a very busy simulated street.

Photo © chris scredon

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Libby ZnaimerAbout The Zoomer Report

Libby Znaimer, a prominent Canadian journalist specializing in business, politics, and lifestyle issues, is producer and host of The Zoomer Report, a special feature on topics of interest to baby boomers and the 50+. It covers everything from health and wealth to leisure and volunteerism, from the special vantage point of the generation that has changed society in its wake.

Ms. Znaimer is also Vice-President of News and Information for Classical 96.3FM and AM740. Her first book, “In Cancerland – Living Well Is The Best Revenge” – was published in October 2007 by Key Porter.

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