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Physical limitations that prevent older adults from performing daily acts of living, navigating their home environment or leaving the home can severely limit quality of life. Mobility-protective behaviors such as maintaining an active lifestyle and removing trip-and-fall hazards from the home can help older adults remain independent longer and stay active in their communities.

But how many older adults are planning ahead to preserve mobility?

By 2060, nearly one in four Americans will be over the age of 65. 30% of 65- to 74-year olds report physical challenges in at least one area, such as walking, standing or lifting — a number that rises to 50% for Americans over 75. These impairments can reduce mobility across three broad domains:

  • Self — the ability to perform daily acts of living
  • Home — the ability to safely navigate the home environment
  • Community — the ability to go where you need to go outside the home

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put together a mobility planning tool to encourage older adults to think about and plan for future mobility needs and adopt mobility-protective behaviors. Targeted to adults aged 60 to 74, the brochure includes helpful advice for maintaining mobility and independence across the three domains: personal, in the home and in the community. They came to Battelle to find out how well it works.

Battelle conducted an evaluation study to determine whether the mobility planning tool made a difference in peoples’ readiness to prepare for future mobility challenges. Researchers determined that people who received the planning tool were more likely to say they had taken mobility protective actions (such as starting a physical activity program or removing safety hazards from the home) or started planning for future mobility needs. They also gathered feedback that CDC used in development of the next version of the tool.

Aging may be inevitable, but loss of mobility doesn’t have to be. The study demonstrated that a simple planning tool can help older adults maintain their mobility for as long as possible.

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