The significance of walking speed in physical function among a group of community dwelling older adults
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] An appropriate level of physical function is a key component in senior adults' process of aging. The decline of functional status is closely associated with some crucial negative life events and significantly influences older adults' quality of life. Accurate monitoring and prediction of functional decline is a vital concern for gerontology research. The purpose of this study was to describe the extent to which the variable of walking speed correlated with the modified physical function, which was measured by the combination of balance and sit-to-stand tests; the predictive value of walking speed in disability status, as well as how much the variables of age, gender and body mass index (BMI) added to the prediction of physical function over that of walking speed alone among a sample of community dwelling older people. The sample included 70 community living older adults. Subjects were screened for cognitive function with the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) and physical function data were collected using the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) along with the Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) for disability status. Results of this study showed that there was significant correlation between walking speed and physical function; therefore it was reliable to use walking speed as a sole surrogate of the assessment of physical function. However, for disability status and the predictive value of age, gender and BMI, this study just found weak correlation between walking speed and disability status and no significant value of age, gender or BMI onto the prediction of physical function. This study further supports the significance of walking speed in the assessments of physical function in the elderly. Findings from this study provide valuable information regarding the contributive value of walking speed in physical function and disability status, especially for frail elderly who have difficulties completing complex battery physical function tests. Researchers can be better prepared in determining the direction and developing specific interventions to maintain physical function among the elderly, such as implementing some smart home technologies to closely monitor the changes of functional status on a daily basis.
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