The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, finds older people who take Ritalin, or methylphenidate, may improve their cognitive abilities and their gait, cutting the risk of serious falls.
Jeffrey M. Hausdorff and colleagues find that after 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," Hausdorff said in a statement. "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."
While the notion of treating fall risk with a pill is "an intriguing concept," Hausdorff says it is unlikely to be a silver bullet solution, and it is still too early to recommend Ritalin on a wide scale basis.
It's likely the drug would not be suitable for people who have certain types of heart disease, Hausdorff said.