Stair negotiation time in community-dwelling older adults: Normative values and association with functional decline

Mooyeon Oh-Park, Cuiling Wang, Joe Verghese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations


Objectives: To establish reference values for stair ascent and descent times in community-dwelling, ambulatory older adults, and to examine their predictive validity for functional decline. Design: Longitudinal cohort study. Mean follow-up time was 1.8 years (maximum, 3.2y; total, 857.9 person-years). Setting: Community sample. Participants: Adults 70 years and older (N=513; mean age, 80.8±5.1y) without disability or dementia. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Time to ascend and descend 3 steps measured at baseline. A 14-point disability scale assessed functional status at baseline and at follow-up interviews every 2 to 3 months. Functional decline was defined as an increase in the disability score by 1 point during the follow-up period. Results: The mean±SD stair ascent and descent times for 3 steps were 2.78±1.49 and 2.83±1.61 seconds, respectively. The proportion of self-reported and objective difficulty was higher with longer stair ascent and descent times (P<.001 for trend for both stair ascent and descent). Of the 472 participants with at least 1 follow-up interview, 315 developed functional decline, with a 12-month cumulative incidence of 56.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 52.1%61.3%). The stair negotiation time was a significant predictor of functional decline after adjusting for covariates including gait velocity (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] per 1-s increase: aHR=1.12 [95% CI, 1.041.21] for stair ascent time; aHR=1.15 [95% CI, 1.071.24] for stair descent time). Stair descent time was a significant predictor of functional decline among relatively high functioning older adults reporting no difficulty in stair negotiation (P=.001). Conclusions: The stair ascent and descent times are simple, quick, and valid clinical measures for assessing the risk of functional decline in community-dwelling older adults including high-functioning individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2006-2011
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011



  • Activities of daily living
  • Aged
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation

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