Applied Evidence

A 4-pronged approach to foster healthy aging in older adults

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Encourage physical activity. Frequent exercise and other forms of physical activity are associated with healthy aging, as shown in a 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of 23 studies (N = 174,114).23 Despite considerable heterogeneity between studies in how researchers defined healthy aging and physical activity, they found that adults who incorporate regular movement and exercise into daily life are likely to continue to benefit from it into older age.23 In addition, a 2016 secondary analysis of data from the InCHIANTI longitudinal aging study concluded that adults ages ≥ 65 years (N = 1149) who had maintained higher physical activity levels throughout adulthood had less physical function decline and reduced rates of mobility disability and premature death compared with those who reported being less active.24

Preserve gait speed (and bolster health) with these activities. Walking speed, or gait, measured on a level surface has been used as a predictor for various aspects of well-being in older age, such as daily function, mobility, independence, falls, mortality, and hospitalization risk.25 Reduced gait speed is also one of the key indicators of functional impairment in older adults.

A 2015 systematic review sought to determine which type of exercise intervention (resistance, coordination, or multimodal training) would be most effective in preserving gait speed in healthy older adults (N = 2495; mean age = 74.2 years).25 While the 42 included studies were deemed to be fairly low quality, the review revealed (with large effect size [0.84]) that a number of exercise modalities might stave off loss of gait speed in older adults. Patients in the resistance training group had the greatest improvement in gait speed (0.11 m/s), followed by those in the coordination training group (0.09 m/s) and the multimodal training group (0.05 m/s).25

Individuals who had maintained higher physical activity levels throughout adulthood had less physical functional decline and reduced rates of mobility disability and premature death.

Finally, muscle mass and strength offer a measure of physical performance and functionality. A 2020 systematic review of 83 studies (N = 108,428) showed that low muscle mass and strength, reduced handgrip strength, and lower physical performance were predictive of reduced capacities in activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living.26 It is important to counsel adults to remain active throughout their lives and to include resistance training to maintain muscle mass and strength to preserve their motor function, mobility, independence, and QOL.

Use 1 of these scales to identify frailty. Frailty is a distinct clinical syndrome, in which an individual has low reserves and is highly vulnerable to internal and external stressors. It affects many community-­dwelling older adults. Within the literature, there has been ongoing discussion regarding the definition of frailty27 (TABLE 128-31).

Commonly used frailty screening tools

Continue to: The Fried Frailty Index...


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