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Introduction: An acute hospital admission is often a life changing event for older adults with up to 50% of patients over 65 losing ADL function whilst hospitalised. Physical activity is associated with maintaining independence and restoration of functional capacity. Our purpose was to pilot an observational coding system of physical activity levels on the Unit.

Methods: Sixteen patients (mean age 83.6; SD 5.65) were observed over 4 separate sessions by a single observer during the same epoch (2pm-5pm) creating a total of 288 observations. Modal posture and activity were recorded at 10 minute intervals, using a pre-designed code form. Self-reported pre-morbid function and current physical function, reported by the ward physiotherapist, as well as gait velocity, CONFbal & Elderly Mobility Score (EMS) were captured during March 2012 for potential factors.

Results: All patients reported they were capable of ambulation before admission. At the time of observation 11 patients (69%) were ambulatory, mean (SD) physical measures; gait velocity 0.2m.sec−1 (0.13m.sec−1), CONFbal 23.6 (3.8), EMS 10.6 (3.37).

Conclusion: This group of patients had extremely slow gait speeds indicating their frailty and risk of functional decline during hospitalisation. Physical activity levels were extremely low on the Unit with ambulatory patients spending 78% of time inactive. CONFbal scores were high which may mean they do not ambulate because they fear falling. Research suggests that 55% of older adults have some degree of fear of falling, and 56% curtailed their activities because of this. We hypothesise that in hospital fear of falling may be more prevalent and result in greater activity curtailment.

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