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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001 Oct;56(10):M644-9.

Measuring higher level physical function in well-functioning older adults: expanding familiar approaches in the Health ABC study.

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  • 1Epidemiology, Demography, and Biometry Program, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.



To evaluate development and progression of functional limitation and retain comparability with established approaches, we raised the measurement ceiling of commonly used self-report and performance-based measures of function. This study evaluated the utility and concurrent validity of these expanded measures.


The study population consisted of 3075 black and white men and women aged 70 to 79 years, with no reported mobility limitations or disability, participating in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition, or Health ABC study. Self-report measures were expanded by ascertaining ease of performance and including more demanding levels of some tasks. A single foot stand and narrow walk supplemented an established performance battery. For walking endurance, we developed the Long Distance Corridor Walk (LDCW), which includes distance covered in 2 minutes and the time to walk 400 m.


The expanded self-report items identified one half of the men and one third of the women as exceptionally well functioning and 10% to 13% of men and 21% to 36% of women with lower capacity. The supplemented and rescored performance battery discriminated function over the full range. The LDCW further differentiated walking capacity at the high end and also identified a subgroup with limitations. The self-report and performance measures were significantly, but weakly, correlated (0.13-0.35) and were independent predictors of walking endurance.


Well-functioning persons in their 70s exhibit a broad range of functional capacity readily ascertained by expanded self-report and performance tests. Significant associations among these measures support their concurrent validity, but generally weak correlations indicate they tap different, but important, dimensions of physical function.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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