For the one in eight Americans over the age of 65, mobility is a vital sign that should be regularly checked, according to two health and exercise science professors from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC.

With input from colleagues, Tony Marsh, PhD, and Jack Rejeski, PhD, have developed the Mobility Assessment Tool (MAT), a way to assess mobility in older adults using video animation rather than written questions.

Created for the iPad and the PC, the MAT takes about 4 minutes to complete. The score provides information that helps older adults better understand their current mobility and can provide a yardstick to monitor changes in how well they get around.

Using an iPad or PC, older adults watch short videos of animated figures performing everyday tasks such as climbing stairs or walking while carrying a bag of groceries. The videos help seniors picture themselves doing these tasks. They then use the touch screen to indicate what they can and cannot do.

Marsh and Rejeski say the MAT is a quick, simple, and cost-effective way to accurately measure mobility and may help practitioners plan appropriate interventions to remediate limitations. They envision elderly patients receiving activity prescriptions to improve their physical function based on the results of the MAT test.

The authors said that the animation technology allows for great flexibility in altering the form, speed, and environmental parameters of mobility-related tasks, opening up a wide range of possibilities for future research questions.

Marsh and Rejeski recently published two studies supporting the video animation tool’s effectiveness in measuring mobility and they have presented their findings at a recent Gerontological Society of America conference. The MAT will be used by researchers involved in the LIFE study, a major multi-year project funded by the National Institutes of Health that is designed to determine the effects of physical activity and successful aging interventions on major mobility disability.

The university previously reported its role in helping to lead the 6-year study titled Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE), which looks at ways to prevent mobility disability in  older adults.

[Source: Wake Forest University]