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What to Expect with a Senior Mobility Test

What to Expect with a Senior Mobility Test

If you’re wondering what to expect with a senior mobility test, you’re likely going to have one soon or your older loved one is going to have one at a doctor’s appointment. The good news is that the senior mobility test is not a big deal at all, meaning that it’s a very simple test that takes a minute or two depending on the person taking the test.

The Get Up and Go Test

Dr. Suzanne Salamon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School likes to use the Get Up and Go Test. This test involves asking the person to stand up from a seated position in a chair, walk 10 feet forward, turn around and walk back to the chair and sit down. As the person walks, she pays attention to how it takes to walk 10 feet, turn around and back to the chair. She also looks to see how steady the person is while walking. People who have no issues with mobility will walk about a yard per second. Those who walk slower than that have a gait problem. Gait problems can lead to falling, which means the person is then identified as a fall risk. 

Self-Reporting Mobility Test

Researchers at the University of Alabama recommend asking the person taking the test two questions:

  1. Do you have difficulty climbing 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile? 
  2. Do you have to modify the way you climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile? 

Answers to these questions indicate whether the person needs to seek medical attention. For instance, if seniors say they can’t climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile, they should schedule an appointment with the doctor for further examination into the causes and possible treatment.

"Mobility limitations are the edge of that slippery slope that leads to loss of function," said one of the researchers, Cynthia J. Brown, M.D., MSPH. "A decline in mobility seems to quickly lead to an across-the-board decline, including the routine activities of daily living. Mobility is a sort of barometer for how well an older person ages."

The good news is that a doctor can usually intervene before people suffer from additional loss of mobility. Many treatments are available, such as physical therapy. This treatment option improves balance and strength. Occupational therapy improves the ability to do daily living activities by implementing safety measures such as elevated bathroom fixtures and grab bars. For seniors who suffer from medical conditions causing them to not be able to walk up 10 steps or a quarter of a mile, referrals to subspecialists may be needed. Lastly, devices may be recommended to make movement easier, such as:

The above devices offer greater mobility because they extend the distance seniors can physically go, even if they may not be doing it while walking. 

Mobility devices have been able to help many seniors remain independent because it gives them freedom to go wherever they desire.

With wheelchairs and scooters that can fit more easily into vehicles, seniors are able to explore the world. This can greatly improve their mental health, which has a positive effect on their physical health. 

The Expectation of a Senior Mobility Test

Many people who want to know what to expect with a senior mobility test wonder if it will end up revealing they won’t be able to have as much freedom as they do now. The reality is that the level of mobility has already been achieved. The mobility test is just identifying the level, so it can be either challenged or worked with to improve freedom and independence. There’s nothing to fear with a senior mobility test.

Reach out to your doctor about having a senior mobility test now that you know what to expect. If your doctor recommends a mobility device, don’t shy away from it. Embrace it so you can continue to have the freedom and independence you love.

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