Many people worry about not being able to move around as well when they get older. They fear they won’t be able to continue their favorite activities, visit their favorite places, or even keep up with everyday tasks.
Mobility — the ability to move or walk freely and easily — is critical for functioning well and living independently. As we age, we may experience changes to our mobility. There are many reasons for these changes, including changes in gait (how we walk), balance, and physical strength.
All of these can increase the number and severity of falls and make it harder for older adults to go out and visit with friends and family and continue doing their activities independently. Older adults who lose their mobility are less likely to remain living at home; have higher rates of disease, disability, hospitalization, and death; and have poorer quality of life.
Researchers are working on this issue because it’s not only a matter of physical health, but also the social and emotional well-being of older adults.
NIA-supported researchers in the United States, are identifying risk factors for physical disability and developing and testing ways to prevent or reverse loss of mobility to help older adults maintain independence. For example, long-running observational studies, such as the Women’s Health and Aging Study II and the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, examine functional decline and how it differs by race and sex.