Self-reported walking ability predicts functional mobility performance in frail older adults

N B Alexander, K E Guire, D G Thelen, J A Ashton-Miller, A B Schultz, J C Grunawalt, B Giordani
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2000, 48 (11): 1408-13

OBJECTIVE: To determine how self-reported physical function relates to performance in each of three mobility domains: walking, stance maintenance, and rising from chairs.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis of older adults.

SETTING: University-based laboratory and community-based congregate housing facilities.

PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred twenty-one older adults (mean age, 79.9 years; range, 60-102 years) without clinical evidence of dementia (mean Folstein Mini-Mental State score, 28; range, 24-30).

INTERVENTION AND MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We compared the responses of these older adults on a questionnaire battery used by the Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly (EPESE) project, to performance on mobility tasks of graded difficulty. Responses to the EPESE battery included: (1) whether assistance was required to perform seven Katz activities of daily living (ADL) items, specifically with walking and transferring; (2) three Rosow-Breslau items, including the ability to walk up stairs and walk a half mile; and (3) five Nagi items, including difficulty stooping, reaching, and lifting objects. The performance measures included the ability to perform, and time taken to perform, tasks in three summary score domains: (1) walking ("Walking," seven tasks, including walking with an assistive device, turning, stair climbing, tandem walking); (2) stance maintenance ("Stance," six tasks, including unipedal, bipedal, tandem, and maximum lean); and (3) chair rise ("Chair Rise," six tasks, including rising from a variety of seat heights with and without the use of hands for assistance). A total score combines scores in each Walking, Stance, and Chair Rise domain. We also analyzed how cognitive/ behavioral factors such as depression and self-efficacy related to the residuals from the self-report and performance-based ANOVA models.

RESULTS: Rosow-Breslau items have the strongest relationship with the three performance domains, Walking, Stance, and Chair Rise (eta-squared ranging from 0.21 to 0.44). These three performance domains are as strongly related to one Katz ADL item, walking (eta-squared ranging from 0.15 to 0.33) as all of the Katz ADL items combined (eta-squared ranging from 0.21 to 0.35). Tests of problem solving and psychomotor speed, the Trails A and Trails B tests, are significantly correlated with the residuals from the self-report and performance-based ANOVA models.

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with the rest of the EPESE self-report items, self-report items related to walking (such as Katz walking and Rosow-Breslau items) are better predictors of functional mobility performance on tasks involving walking, stance maintenance, and rising from chairs. Compared with other self-report items, self-reported walking ability may be the best predictor of overall functional mobility.

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