Transitions Between Frailty States Among Community-Living Older Persons

The experience of frailty for persons aged 70 or older was examined in the current study. The 754 study participants were part of the Precipitating Events Project that followed older persons over a period of 54 months. Frailty was defined as the presence of at least three of the following features: weight loss, exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity and slow walking speed. Prefrailty occurred when one or two features were present, whereas absence of the above features indicated no frailty. Participants were assessed for frailty at 18-month intervals.

Key Findings:

  • Slightly over half (51.7%) of participants were classified into the prefrailty group.
  • There were one or more transitions between frailty states for 57.6 percent of participants. The most frequent number of transitions for participants was one (36.8%) with three transitions occurring least frequently (9.2%).
  • The probability that frail participants would move to prefrailty declined with time. Conversely, the probability of death for frail participants increased with time.
  • Older persons moved from less to more frailty more often than they moved from some degree of frailty to nonfrailty. Less than 1 percent of participants moved from being frail to not being frail.