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iPad Animation helps assess Mobility in
Newswise, February 1, 2011 — For the one in
eight Americans now over the age of 65,
mobility is a “vital sign” that should be
regularly checked, according to two health
and exercise science professors at Wake
Mobility is closely linked to overall health
and quality of life, but health care
professionals have not had an easy and
effective way to assess it.
To solve the problem, Tony Marsh and Jack
Rejeski developed the Mobility Assessment
Tool (MAT) with the help of colleagues in
the computer science department (Yue-Ling
Wong) and Wake Forest University Baptist
Medical Center (Eddie Ip).
The MAT is a unique way to assess mobility
in older adults using video animation rather
than written questions. Created for the iPad
and the PC, the MAT takes about four minutes
to complete. The score provides information
that helps older adults better understand
their current mobility and can provide a
yardstick to monitor changes in how well
they get around.
Using an iPad or PC, older adults watch
short videos of animated figures performing
everyday tasks such as climbing stairs or
walking while carrying a bag of groceries.
The videos help senior citizens picture
themselves doing these tasks. They then use
the touch screen to indicate what they can
and cannot do.
Marsh and Rejeski say the MAT is a quick,
simple and cost-effective way to accurately
measure mobility and may help practitioners
plan appropriate interventions to remediate
limitations. They envision the elderly
getting “activity prescriptions” to improve
their physical function based on the results
of the Mobility Assessment Test. The MAT
could easily be administered in the waiting
room before a patient talks to the
The MAT offers some advantages over written
questionnaires and can be used when actually
having the older adult perform each task is
not possible or practical.
“In pilot testing, we found that the
animation technology allowed older adults to
project themselves into the tasks,” Marsh
says. “This removed potential biases that
would have occurred if actual people had
been filmed doing the tasks.”
Using animation instead of actors also made
the tool more adaptable and less expensive.
In addition, the touch screen technology
dramatically decreases the time of test
The authors said that the animation
technology allows for great flexibility in
altering the form, speed, and environmental
parameters of mobility-related tasks,
opening up a wide range of possibilities for
future research questions.
“This is a tool that could be used quickly
in a physician’s office or out in the
field,” says Rejeski, who has found the MAT
to be useful in his research on older adults
Marsh and Rejeski have recently published
two studies supporting the video animation
tool’s effectiveness in measuring mobility
and they have presented their findings at a
recent Gerontological Society of America
The MAT will be used by
researchers involved in the LIFE study, a
major multi-year project funded by the
National Institutes of Health that is
designed to determine the effects of
physical activity and successful aging
interventions on major mobility disability.
Recently Marsh and Rejeski have been asked
to collaborate in a cross-cultural study of
mobility in older adults with researchers
from Canada, Brazil and Columbia that will
use the MAT.