Functional Performance and Balance in the Oldest-Old.

The group of individuals 85 years and over (termed oldest-old) is the fastest-growing population in the Western world. Although daily functional abilities and balance capabilities are known to decrease as an individual grows older, little is known about the balance and functional characteristics of the oldest-old population. The aims of this study were to characterize balance control, functional abilities, and balance self-efficacy in the oldest-old, to test the correlations between these constructs, and to explore differences between fallers and nonfallers in this age group.

Forty-five individuals living in an assisted living facility who ambulated independently participated in the study. The mean age was 90.3 (3.7) years. Function was tested using the Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument (LLFDI). Balance was tested with the mini-Balance Evaluation System Test (mini-BESTest) and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test. Balance self-efficacy was tested with the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence (ABC) scale.

The mean total function LLFDI score was 63.2 (11.4). The mean mini-BESTest score was 69.8% (18.6%) and the mean TUG time was 12.6 (6.9) seconds. The mean ABC score was 80.2% (14.2%). Good correlation (r > 0.7) was observed between the ABC and the function component of the LLFDI, as well as with the lower extremity domains. Correlations between the mini-BESTest scores and the LLFDI were fair to moderate (r’s range: 0.38-0.62). Age and ABC scores were significant independent explanators of LLFDI score (P = .0141 and P = .0009, respectively). Fallers and nonfallers differed significantly across all outcome measures scores, except for TUG and for the “Reactive Postural Control” and “Sensory Orientation” domains of the mini-BESTest.

The results of this study provide normative data regarding the balance and functional abilities of the oldest-old, and indicate a strong association between self-efficacy and function. These results emphasize the importance of incorporating strategies that maintain and improve balance self-efficacy in interventions aimed at enhancing the functional level of this cohort.