Background: Frailty is a common geriatric syndrome and is characterized by decreased physiological reserve and increased vulnerability towards adverse health outcomes including falls. Turning is a challenging task and is reported to be one of the daily activities that leads to falling in older populations. Research question: Does 180° walking turns and 360° turning on the spot differ among frail, pre-frail, and non-frail older adults? Can 180° walking turns and 360° turning on the spot cutoffs discriminate older adults with frailty from those without? Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted on community-dwelling older adults aged over 65 years. Frailty was assessed using Fried's phenotype method, and turning tasks were measured by inertial sensors. The turn duration (s) and angular velocity (°/s) were recorded for analysis. Results: In total, 109 participants were enrolled including 50 pre-frail and 12 frail individuals. Frail older adults took significantly longer and had slower angular velocities to complete the 180° and 360° turning than did either pre-frail (p = 0.002 and p < 0.001, respectively) or non-frail (p = 0.03 and p < 0.001, respectively) older adults. Cutoff times of 2.45 and 3.46 s were found to best discriminate frail people from those without frailty in both the 180° (sensitivity 83.3 %, specificity 71.1 %, area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) 0.796) and 360° (sensitivity 91.7 %, specificity 74.2 %, AUC 0.857) turn tasks. Significance: Older individuals with frailty syndrome had difficulty turning as evidenced by a longer turning duration and a slower angular velocity. The turn duration could be a potential biomarker of frailty in older populations. Assessing the turning performance can facilitate early detection of the onset of frailty and inform early prevention and rehabilitation interventions in clinical practice.
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