Walking and talking don't always mix--especially for seniors trying to cross a busy road.
A new study confirms what most of us already know: The older you get, the harder it is to focus on two things at the same time.
And when it comes to crossing a road, there's just one thing you really need to focus on: Getting to the other side in one piece.
Researchers created a virtual intersection by placing a treadmill in front of a giant video screen that showed cars coming from both directions.
Then, they recruited two sets of volunteers: College students between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, and older people between the ages of 59 and 81 years old.
Each volunteer was asked to make it through the virtual intersection in 30 seconds or less in different conditions: no distractions, listening to music with headphones and talking on a cellphone to one of the researchers.
The younger volunteers were able to make it across the street in the same amount of time, every time, no matter what distractions they faced--even when the researchers had the virtual cars speed up.
But seniors often hesitated when talking on the phone, and were frequently unable to cross in the 30-second timeframe. In fact, talking on the phone quadrupled the odds they wouldn't make it across when compared to crossing with no distractions, according to the study in Psychology and Aging.
And if that's what it can do to you when walking, imagine what gabbing on a cellphone can do to you while you're driving.
In other words, don't even try it.
Of course, the younger crowd shouldn't read this as a license to multitask at all times--because another study finds they're more likely to engage in one of the most dangerous activities on the road short of drunk driving: texting while driving.
Consumer Reports says its recent poll found that 30 percent of drivers under 30 years old admitted to texting from behind the wheel over the previous month.
I don't care how well you multitask--you can't avoid an accident if your eyes aren't on the road in the first place.