No walk in the park: Factors that predict walking difficulty in elderly

January 16, 2012

Yale School of Medicine researchers have found that the likelihood of becoming disabled with age increases with the following factors: having a chronic condition or cognitive impairment; low physical activity; slower gross motor coordination; having poor lower-extremity function; and being hospitalized. Women are also more likely than men to become disabled in their later years.

Based on 12 years of data, the findings are published in the Jan.17 issue of by a research team led by Thomas Gill, M.D., the Humana Foundation Professor of Geriatric Medicine and professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health at Yale School of Medicine.

With age, many people can no longer walk short distances or drive a car, and those with long-term loss of mobility have difficulty regaining independence.

"Losing the ability to walk independently not only leads to a poorer overall quality of life, but prolonged disability leads to higher rates of illness, death, depression and ," said Gill, who followed a group of 641 people aged 70 or older who could walk a quarter mile unassisted or who were active drivers at the start of the study. All participants could perform essential activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing.

Gill and his team assessed the participants for changes in potential disability every 18 months between 1998 and 2008. They also assessed the participants' mobility each month. Those who said they needed help from another person to walk a quarter mile were considered to be walking disabled. Those who said that they had not driven a car during the past month were considered driving disabled.

On a monthly basis, the research team also assessed the participants' exposure to potential causes of disability, including illnesses or injuries leading to hospitalization and restricted activity, which increased the likelihood of long-term disability by 6-fold.

The team found that multiple risk factors, together with subsequent illness and injury leading to hospitalization and restricted activity, are associated with an increased likelihood of developing long-term walking and driving disability. The team considered a disability to be long term if it persisted for at least six months.

"We've learned that targeted strategies are needed to prevent disability among older people living independently in the community," said Gill.

More information: Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 156, No. 2: 131-140 (January 17, 2012)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.