BACKGROUND: There is a need for a simple self-administered instrument to assess frailty in community-dwelling seniors.
METHODS: We present a new marker set to assess the functional state of seniors. Contrary to current literature, we focus not only on risks, but also include resources. The questions relate to facts (ways to do things), rather than on subjective information (e.g. exhaustion). It was developed in the context of the Longitudinal Urban Cohort Ageing Study (LUCAS) in Hamburg, Germany.
RESULTS: The classification based on these questions proposes operational definitions of the terms fit, pre-frail and frail and is predictive for need for nursing care as well as mortality. A wealth of results establishes the validity of the categorisation compared to other health questions. One of the classification questions concerns cycling. For areas where cycling is not suitable, we propose to replace this question with one about independently walking 500 m. However, the cycling question appears to indicate frailty earlier.
CONCLUSION: The self-administered questionnaire provides a simple, cost-effective way to screen seniors for early signs of declining function in order to start preventive action.