Changes in physical performance in elderly Europeans. SENECA 1993 - 1999

J Nutr Health Aging. 2002;6(1):9-14.


Objective: To assess longitudinal changes in subjective and objective measures of physical performance in elderly Europeans.

Design: Longitudinal study including SENECA measurements 1993-1999.

Setting: Data were collected in 9 'traditional' European towns.

Subjects and methods: In total 444 men and women, born 1913-1918 participated both in the follow-up survey in 1993 and in the finale in 1999. Changes in Activities of Daily Living (ADL), the 7 item Physical Performance Test (PPT) and in the ability to perform the chair stand and the tandem test were measured.

Results: ADL and PPT did not change significantly between the 2 surveys, while participants needed more time to perform the chair stand (p<0.02) and their balance declined according to the tandem test (p< 0.01). Men were significantly better than women, in all measures of physical performance. However, the decline in functioning was of the same magnitude. All tests showed significant variation between centres in physical function. Significant cross cultural variation was found for changes in the capacity to perform the objective tests. Tests of distributions showed good association between the self reported and objective measures of physical performance. Rather than assessing the same task in several ways, the measures may reflect different levels of disability, and as such be important end point measures.

Conclusions: Both ADL and objective tests of simple functions applied well in the SENECA population. Physical performance declines with age. Across European towns variation in physical performance was identified.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Self Concept