Mobility and Ageing

New metrics for exploring the relationship between mobility and successful ageing

Back to all projects Mobility and Ageing

Ageing is generally associated with a decrease in mobility and social interaction and this decrease can be dependent upon various health and social factors. Sustaining levels of activity are important for successful ageing and for those for whom mobility is a problem suffer in a variety of ways. Social lives become restricted and the less mobile become more limited in terms of their access to nutrition, leisure and other activities leading to dependence on others for visits to shops and to use other services. Although mobility is an issue for ageing there are two gaps in knowledge. Firstly we know relatively little about mobility in the oldest-old and secondly there are methodological problems in that determining the extent to which older people are active in their environment have been limited largely to self-report studies.

New methods are needed to examine how much activity an individual achieves throughout a day. Monitoring activity levels by accelerometry and tracking devices offers the potential to assess the mobility of older adults, and along with monitoring of health and well-being can help identify individuals who may be at risk.


  • Lynn McInnes, Northumbria University
  • Pamela Briggs, Northumbria University
  • Linda Little, Northumbria University
  • Lynn Rochester, Glasgow Caledonian University


CELS (Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences), Trackaphone

Contact details

Lynn McInnes


The aim of this project is to utilise an innovative method for mapping the mobility of the oldest-old members of an existing 20 year longitudinal study of ageing.

The project will draw upon activity monitoring methods and combine this with data from state-of-art location-aware technologies in order to develop new metrics.

These will then be used to describe the relationship between mobility and physical and mental well-being.

Specifically, the project will seek to establish a sophisticated mobility profile of the oldest-old by determining where individuals go and how active they are in the process. In order to active this accelerometry data will be combined with location based technologies in order to create innovative mobility metrics.

Secondly the project will develop a more accurate picture of the current status of the oldest-old cohort in order to map the new mobility data against indices of successful ageing such as nutrition, balance, health, lifestyle and social engagement.

Thirdly, this new data will be examined in conjunction with data from an existing longitudinal data in order to model predictors and consequences of mobility in the oldest old.

Finally preliminary assessments of the utility and acceptability of the new mobility-tracking methodologies as healthcare interventions will be investigated as a means of supporting the identification of individuals at risk.


Phase 1

Interviews, tests and questionnaires and data collection using accelerometry and location-based tracking will be conducted on a sample of the oldest-old volunteers from a 20 year longitudinal study of ageing t o:

  1. establish a reliable profile of mobility of the oldest-old.
  2. establish a current health and lifestyle profile of the oldest-old.

Phase 2

Data from a 20 year longitudinal study of ageing which includes information of demographics, health, pathology, exercise, physical and intellectual activities, social involvements , nutrition and alcohol and tobacco consumption will be used in conjunction with the new metrics gathered in phase 1 to model the predictors and consequences of mobility in the oldest-old.

Phase 3

Post test interviews will be conducted to assess the utility and acceptability of the new mobility-awareness metrics in the health monitoring of older adults and in identifying individuals at risk. These interviews will assess the trade-off between privacy concerns and health benefits of using accelerometry and location-based tracking technologies.

Policy implications

Policy and practice implications of this research will focus mainly on understanding activity and mobility patterns of older people living in the community. It will investigate how physical and mental well-being relate to this mobility, and also determine the consequences of good or poor mobility among the oldest-old members of the population.

In terms of product development, the research will be developing and utilising activity monitoring and location awareness technologies with Trackaphone (a non-academic partner). Such systems have the potential to help older people live independently but ease of use, acceptability and privacy issues surrounding such devices needs to be examined. The research will therefore make recommendations of products that are suitable for the health monitoring of older people and factors that need to be considered to ensure ease of utility and acceptability. It will also examine the viability of commercial development of mobility tracking technology as a means of identifying those ‘at risk’.

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