6 Nov 2020

Face masks and risk of falls – a vision for personalised advice and timing?

Wearing masks restricts vision to a small extent, requiring people
to look down to negotiate steps and other obstacles or hazards.
What is the best advice for the elderly with restricted mobility?
Image: Shutterstock

Mask wearing continues to be mandatory in Victoria as a tried and tested public health measure to limit the spread of COVID-19. The World Health Organisation has recommended that mask-wearing be routine practice throughout the world. What are the implications for those who experience difficulty negotiating their environment?

Elderly people have all kinds of mobility issues. Wearing masks adds to the complexity of their experience. The authors of a recently published British Medical Journal (BMJ) editorial about mask-wearing and risk of falls in older people suggest that slowing down walking pace may be safer than looking down when wearing face masks. 

Associate Professor Michele CallisayaProfessor Keith Hill and colleagues who created the Safe Exercise at Home website have published a reply. She says, "We advocate that advising people to simply slow down without taking other aspects of negotiating your environment while wearing a mask is not the best approach. Masks do restrict your vision to some extent. Strategies should be individualised and looking down over a mask is required especially on curbs and obstacles."  

See the group's response: https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4133/rr

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