Objective: To examine the effect of 2 instructions on the same walking while talking (WWT) task on task prioritization by nondisabled subjects.
Design: Cross-sectional survey with within subject comparisons.
Setting: Community-based sample.
Participants: Older adults (N=189; mean age, 80.2+/-4.9y), who did not meet criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition, for dementia and were able to independently perform activities of daily living.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Verbal and gait measures on the same WWT task with 2 different instructions: paying attention to both talking and walking (WWT-C) and paying attention only to talking (WWT-T).
Results: Task prioritization effects were seen on walking but not on talking. Compared with their baseline normal walking velocity (without talking), subjects slowed down more on WWT-T (median change, 28.3%) than WWT-C (median change, 26.4%). Comparing the 2 WWT conditions, velocity and cadence was slower during WWT-T compared with WWT-C, with longer stride length. Verbal output was not significantly different on the 2 conditions.
Conclusions: Changing instructions while maintaining the same cognitive and motor tasks on WWT in older adults result in task prioritization effects.