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Walker use, but not falls, is associated with lower physical functioning and health of residents in an assisted-living environment

Authors Daniel A Andersen, Bernard A Roos, Damian C Stanziano, Natasha M Gonzalez, Joseph F Signorile

Published 15 April 2007 Volume 2007:2(1) Pages 123—137

Daniel A Andersen1,5, Bernard A Roos1–4, Damian C Stanziano1,3, Natasha M Gonzalez3, Joseph F Signorile1–3

1Stein Gerontological Institute, Miami, FL; 2Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Miami, FL; 3Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL; 4Departments of Medicine and Neurology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL; 5Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA

Abstract: The relationship between perceived health and walker use has seldom been addressed. Concerns over falls and falls risk are precursors to walker use. We compared the SF-36 scores of 26 women and 14 men, mean age 86.8 ± 6.0 years based on walker use and faller status. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with age as the covariate, compared groups for the SF-36 constructs and totals score. Significant differences were noted between walker users and nonusers in physical functioning, role limitations due to physical problems, general health, and the total SF-36 score. Pairwise comparisons favored nonusers, while no differences were seen due to faller status. Walker use is associated with lower self-perceptions of physical functioning, role limitations due to physical problems, and general health in assisted-living residents. Faller status is not associated with self-perceived health status. Although walker use aids mobility and lowers the probability of falls, further research is needed to determine if the prescription of assistive devices has a more negative impact on self-perceived health than does falling. This possibility could be explained, in part, by the greater activity levels of those individuals who do not depend on walkers.

Keywords: physical function, threshold, walking aid, elderly, perceived health

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