Senior Power! Functional measures of power in older adults.

Senior Power! Functional measures of power in older adults.

Power – how does that relate to a physical therapy blog?   Well, power is the measure of work completed in a certain amount of time, and it’s something that we pay special attention to when treating older adults.  The ability to lift one’s body weight and move it with speed is an essential function for daily life.  Imagine moving out of the way of a speeding car, or being able to thrust your leg forward fast enough to catch yourself after tripping.  Really important skills, right?  Moving quickly is a critical function; unfortunately, it is a capacity that begins to decline as adults age.  Losing the ability to generate explosive force from one’s lower body is predictive in whether or not someone can remain living independently.  Hence, as physical therapists, we pay special attention to how much power our clients can generate in routine daily skills.

These are two of the functional measures that we use to look at how older individuals move with speed in day-to-day life:

1. 30-second sit-to-stand test.  How many sit-to-stand repetitions can an individual perform in 30-seconds, without using their hands?  This is a great way to gauge lower extremity power, and an important factor in everything from getting off the toilet, rising from bed, climbing stairs, etc.  If you want to see age norms, plug in some info into this online calculator.

2. Timed Up and Go.  In this measurement, a therapist records how long it takes someone to stand up from a chair, walk 10 feet, turn around, and return to sit back in the chair.   One’s age determines the specific goal time frames, but 10-seconds is a good benchmark, with times of 20 or 30-seconds being more indicative of potential safety concerns.  Aside from the lower extremity power needed to stand-up rapidly, this test also looks at walking ability, balance, and the coordination to complete 180-degree turns. 

These tests need to be completed in a standardized way for the most accurate assessment;  thus, speak with a physical therapist for more information on how they may be used.   Feel free to contact Beyond the Clinic if you are interested in how one of our Portland physical therapists can help an older adult in your life maintain their strength, speed and safety!