Background: essential aspects of independence in community mobility among older people concern the control over where, when and how to participate (perceived autonomy), and actual mobility (life-space mobility; frequency, distance and need of assistance). We studied relationships between frailty and life-space mobility and perceived autonomy in participation outdoors among community-dwelling 75–90 years old people.
Methods: longitudinal analyses of the ‘Life-space mobility in old age’ cohort study (n = 753). Life-space mobility (Life-Space Assessment, range 0–120) and perceived autonomy in participation outdoors (Impact on Participation and Autonomy subscale ‘autonomy outdoors’, range 0–20) were assessed at baseline and 2 years later. Baseline frailty indicators were unintentional weight loss (self-report), weakness (5 times chair rise), exhaustion (self-report), slowness (2.44 m walk) and low physical activity (self-report).
Results: in total, 53% had no frailty, 43% pre-frailty (1–2 frailty indicators) and 4% frailty (≥3 indicators). Generalised estimation equation models showed that life-space mobility was lower among those with frailty and pre-frailty compared with those without frailty and, in addition, declined at a faster pace. Perceived autonomy in participation outdoors was more restricted among those with frailty and pre-frailty compared with those without frailty, but the rate of decline did not differ.
Conclusion: frailty was associated with more restricted life-space mobility and poorer perceived autonomy in the decision-making concerning community mobility. Over the follow-up, frailty predicted a steeper decline in life-space mobility but not in perceived autonomy. Further study is warranted to determine whether compensation strategies or changes in the valuation of activities underlie this discrepancy.