Purpose: To develop and validate criterion-referenced fitness standards for older adults that predict the level of capacity needed for maintaining physical independence into later life. The proposed standards were developed for use with a previously validated test battery for older adults-the Senior Fitness Test (Rikli, R. E., & Jones, C. J. (2001). Development and validation of a functional fitness test for community--residing older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 6, 127-159; Rikli, R. E., & Jones, C. J. (1999a). Senior fitness test manual. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.).
Methods: A criterion measure to assess physical independence was identified. Next, scores from a subset of 2,140 "moderate-functioning" older adults from a larger cross-sectional database, together with findings from longitudinal research on physical capacity and aging, were used as the basis for proposing fitness standards (performance cut points) associated with having the ability to function independently. Validity and reliability analyses were conducted to test the standards for their accuracy and consistency as predictors of physical independence.
Results: Performance standards are presented for men and women ages 60-94 indicating the level of fitness associated with remaining physically independent until late in life. Reliability and validity indicators for the standards ranged between .79 and .97.
Implications: The proposed standards provide easy-to-use, previously unavailable methods for evaluating physical capacity in older adults relative to that associated with physical independence. Most importantly, the standards can be used in planning interventions that target specific areas of weakness, thus reducing risk for premature loss of mobility and independence.