As the older adult population and cost of health care continues to rise worldwide, the focus of health care policy has been redrawn on health promotion and disability prevention among elderly people. When older adults begin experiencing age-related physiological decline, such as slower gait speed, they tend to compensate well by relying on environmental modification and posture adaptation.
A large variety of chronic diseases is related to changes in body composition. The loss of skeletal muscle mass is particularly critical with regard to an older adult’s quality of life due to the fact that it could lead to decreases in exercise ability and activities of daily living. Cachexia is defined as a condition in which one loses more than 5% of body weight in the duration of 12 months and is associated with the presence of a chronic disease, such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure. Much research has been done in the past several years in regards to finding new treatments to prevent muscle deterioration and cachexia is patients suffering from chronic diseases, but also the muscle deterioration related to “healthy aging.”
The aging population in Japan is the fastest growing in the world—by 2035, one out of every three people will be over the age of 65. With such a rapidly increasing aging population, combating age-related health issues, like physical and mental frailty or illness, is becoming critical. It is crucial that older adults maintain as much functional independence as long as possible. Thus, it is important that long-term care facilities, such as assisted living communities, be able to identify incident disability risk factors for their residents.
The older population is highly heterogeneous. Although the general development of diseases and disabilities is similar as they age, the trajectory and rate of change in health and functional ability is widely varied in each individual and those with the same chronological age can have extremely different biological ages. Thus, it is difficult to measure the heterogeneity of the aging process in older people.
Physical frailty is prevalent among older adults living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as in the community. It is a medical syndrome with a variety of causes and contributors that is characterized by a decrease in strength, endurance, and weakened physiologic function that enhances a person’s vulnerability for needing increased dependency. Frailty has been associated with health-related detrimental events like mortality, disability in necessary activities of daily living (ADLs), and mobility disability, hospitalization, institutionalization, and falls in community-dwelling older adults. Unfortunately, there have not been many studies that have analyzed the commonality of frailty in institutionalized older adults and few interventions have focused on this vulnerable population.