Washington, July 29 : Old age is not just welcomes body aches and pains, it also brings along an increased risk of falling. Now, a group of researchers have come with a solution that may help cut the chances of serious falls among elderly.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University suggest that Ritalin, which is used for managing Attention Deficit Disorder in hyperactive children, may provide therapeutic benefits for seniors.
Older people who take methylphenidate (the generic name for Ritalin) may improve their cognitive abilities and their gait, cutting the risk for serious falls.
The study was conducted by Prof. Jeffrey M. Hausdorff, a lecturer at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and his colleagues, and has been reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
In the study, Prof. Hausdorff found that with only one dose of Ritalin seniors walked with a steadier gait and performed better on a standard screening test for fall risk.
"Our study suggests that it may be possible to reduce the risk of falls in older adults by treating cognitive deficits associated with aging and disease," Prof. Hausdorff said. This is consistent with a growing body of literature which has demonstrated that walking is not a simple, automated task, as it was once believed. We've taken this idea a step further and shown that you can capitalize on this dependence on cognitive function and use it to reduce the risk of falls," he added.
To reach the conclusion, Prof. Hausdorff gave Ritalin to 26 healthy seniors who resided in independent living arrangements. They were assessed for fall risk before taking a single dose of Ritalin or placebo administered in a double blind fashion.
The subjects were then asked to perform the "Timed Up and Go" test, during which they were asked to stand up from a chair, walk at a normal pace for about ten feet and then turn around, walk back and sit down. The longer it takes to accomplish the task, the greater the fall risk.
Those who took Ritalin performed the test quicker and had less variability in their "stride time," a common sign of instability, researchers found.