TILDA Researcher Wins Scientific Award at British Geriatrics Society Conference

Posted on: 28 May 2013

Eoin Duggan, a medical student, based at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), recently won the prestigious Fergus Anderson Prize at the Spring British Geriatrics Society conference in Belfast. 

Eoin’s research investigated the relationship between vision and gait in older adults as part of a wider programme of research based at TILDA examining the biopsychosocial risk factors associated with falls in the elderly. The work was funded by a HRB Summer Student Scholarship and conducted under the supervision of Dr Ciarán Finucane (Medical Physics and Bioengineering), Dr Hilary Cronin (Geriatric Medicine), Dr Orna Donoghue (Biomechanics) and TILDA Principal Investigator, Professor Rose Anne Kenny, who are all based at TILDA. 

Eoin Duggan
Medical Student Researcher at TILDA, Eoin Duggan pictured after the award ceremony 

The work was conducted using data from the first wave of TILDA research, consisting of results from some 8,175 people aged 50 and over living in Ireland. The study’s research findings indicate that poor contrast sensitivity but not visual acuity is related to poor gait performance in older adults. The importance of these findings are clinically significant and may result in a new awareness about the importance of vision and particularly contrast sensitivity in the field of geriatric medicine especially in conditions which are related to gait disturbances like falls. 

Already international falls risk guidelines include assessment of vision as part of a comprehensive assessment. These findings suggest that contrast sensitivity is a more important marker than visual acuity which is normally used when assessing older adults clinically. On-going research in TILDA aims to determine the importance of this and other parameters as part of a global falls risk assessment program with a view to reducing the prevalence of falls in older adults which occur annually in one in three adults aged over 65.     

Commenting on the results of Eoin’s research, Principal Investigator for TILDA, Professor Rose Anne Kenny said: “This research highlights the importance of comprehensive assessments when assessing complex health issues common in older adults such as falls. Poor contrast sensitivity potentially puts the ageing population at risk of serious falls as it limits their gait patterns. Comprehensive testing and treatment strategies targeting vision may in the future help us improve independence of older adults”.