Objective: Motor impairment in old age is a growing public-health concern, and several different constructs have been used to identify motor impairments in older people. We tested the hypothesis that combinations of motor constructs more strongly predict adverse health outcomes in older people.
Methods: In total, 949 people without dementia, history of stroke or Parkinson's disease, who were participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project (a longitudinal community-based cohort study), underwent assessment at study entry. From this, three constructs were derived: 1) physical frailty based on grip strength, timed walk, body mass index and fatigue; 2) Parkinsonian Signs Score based on the modified motor section of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale; and 3) a motor construct, based on nine strength measures and nine motor performances. Disability and cognitive status were assessed annually. A series of Cox proportional-hazards models, controlling for age, sex and education, were used to examine the association of each of these three constructs alone and in various combinations with death, disability and Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Results: All three constructs were related (mean r = 0.50, all P < 0.001), and when considered individually in separate proportional-hazards models, were associated with risk of death, incident disability and AD. However, when considered together, combinations of these constructs more strongly predicted adverse health outcomes.
Conclusions: Physical frailty, parkinsonian signs score and global motor score are related constructs that capture different aspects of motor function. Assessments using several motor constructs may more accurately identify people at the highest risk of adverse health consequences in old age.