Healthy Aging

A test system adapted to the Cuban reality allows evaluating the physical condition of the elderly in the field of motor capacity. The results of its implementation constitute the guiding standard for programs dedicated to this growing population sector

By: Aileen Infante Vigil-Escalera


2016-06-13 | 14:11:13 EST
Physical condition of the elderlyPhysical condition of the elderly Photo: Physical condition of the elderlyZoom
«Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. Only those who abandon their ideals, grow older»
Samuel Ullman

At the end of twentieth century, the figures of the Cuban population belonging to the elderly reached a relative value greater than 18.3 percent, with a predicted tendency to increase  by 2025 to a rate of one person aged 60 or over for every four habitants. Therefore, the situation is worrying and occupies researchers and specialists from around the country working in order to ensure a better quality of life for elderly people.

One of these worried specialists is the Master of Science in Physical Culture and Sport  Jesus Fernandez Gonzalez, for whom «the aging population in Cuba is an achievement of the political, economic and social system linked to the development of the Cuban population, and at the same time,  a challenge for society. »

Together with the National Directorate of Physical Education and Health Promotion (DNEFPS) of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), to which he belongs, Fernández González proposed, in 2013, the creation of an objective tool to measure the physical capacity in elderly people.

Thus, he assured that with application of such a tool is possible to assess, plan and direct more successfully the guiding standard for the Elderly Program in Cuba,  and the plan of exercises and activities that elderly people truly need to recover and/or keep  their motor functions at this age.

Fernández González developed and validated a battery of tests of physical ability for the elderly, based on the assessment tools presented in 2001 by researchers R.E. Rikli and C. Jessie Jones from the Fullerton State University in California, named Senior Fitness Tests Manual. 

Its main goal, he assured, is to achieve a satisfactory old age, where people associate the increase in longevity to the maintenance of their autonomy and social integration, because «although old age begins at age 60, aging occurs much earlier and it’s from this preliminary stage that the body should be prepared to assimilate healthily the physiological changes and behavior of the age. »

Measuring the Quality of Life

The impaired motor activity of the people occurs as time is passing by, diminishing or even completely limiting the motor activity. To evaluate the physical condition at this stage, the Cuban test focused the exercises on the systems that influence have on their mobility: the musculoskeletal, nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory.

Seven tests are proposed: sit and rise from a chair in 30 seconds during X amount of times (strength in lower limbs); pushups in 30 seconds in another number of times (strength in upper limbs); get up, walk and go sit in so many seconds (agility and balance.)

Also trunk flexion in a chair several centimeters (flexibility); perform two minutes of walking with X number of steps (resistance); join hands behind his back with the least amount of centimeters apart (flexibility); and walk a number meters for six minutes (resistance.)

Its application to 21,634 people in 21 municipalities and seven provinces (Pinar del Rio, Havana, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba, ) finally allowed the preparation of the Cuban Standard for assessing the physical condition of elderly people which is controlling the Elderly Program in Cuba since then.

First Application Results

According to the explanation by the  INDER specialist, the exercises in this battery, conveniently confirmed internationally because it collects the largest number of components associated with functional independence, allowed determining in its application the physical condition of the elderly in the field of motor capacity with a certain range according to the Cuban Standard to evaluate the physical condition in people 60 years or older and their application in the Elderly Program as a diagnostic and evaluation tool.

The results of this assessment provided the information necessary for planning specific exercises in activities for improving their overall physical condition and also their activities of daily life and sports.

«On the reception of information from the first analysis, held in December 2014, they were able to see the physical abilities by age group. The lower yields were in activities related to aerobic endurance and flexibility or joint mobility in the upper limbs. »

«At present, we are immersed in the analysis of the exercises applied during the second year of implementation —up to December 2015—, but we expect better results after working to meet the deficiencies identified during the study, » he concluded.

Translated by ESTI

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