Trends in Physical and Cognitive Performance Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults in Switzerland

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2020 Nov 13;75(12):2347-2353. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glaa008.


Background: With population aging, a key question is whether new cohorts of older people are in better health than previous ones. This study aimed to compare the physical and cognitive performance of community-dwelling older adults assessed at similar age in 2005, 2010, and 2015.

Methods: This repeated cross-sectional analysis used data from the Lausanne cohort 65+, a three random sample population-based study. Performance of participants aged 66-71 years in 2005 (N = 1,309), 2010 (N = 1,253), and 2015 (N = 1,328) was compared using a battery of six physical and four cognitive tests. Analyses included tests for trend across samples and multivariable linear regression models.

Results: Adjusted performance in all four timed physical tests (gait speed, Timed Up-and-Go, five times chair stand, and Moberg Picking-Up) improved across samples from 2005 to 2015, by +12.7% (95% confidence interval {CI} +10.5%; +14.9%) to +20.4% (95% CI +17.7%; +23.0%) in females, and by +10.6% (95% CI +8.7%; +12.4%) to +16.7% (95% CI +13.4%; +20.0%) in males. In contrast, grip strength and balance did not improve across samples. Adjusted cognitive performance showed no change in the Trail Making Test, but worsened significantly across samples for the Mini-Mental State Examination, verbal fluency, and the clock drawing test in both females (-1.9% [95% CI -2.7%; -1.1%] to -6.7% [95% CI -8.9%; -4.6%]) and males (-2.5% [95% CI -3.4%; -1.6%] to -8.0% [95% CI -11.1%; -4.9%]).

Conclusions: Over the last decade, performance of adults aged 66-71 years improved significantly in timed physical tests but worsened in most cognitive measures among later-born samples.

Keywords: Cognition; Functional performance; Physical performance; Public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Independent Living*
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Switzerland / epidemiology