Declining gait speed may serve as a predictor of cognitive decline in older adults. However, clinicians do not routinely assess gait speed and may have difficulty distinguishing sudden changes from those that occur slowly over time. Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, researchers reported on the use of an in-home device that monitored gait speed by collecting measurements unobtrusively from infrared motion sensors (Austin et al., 2011). The researchers developed mathematical formulas for analyzing changes in gait speed over time. They also identified parameters associated with a sudden decrease in speed (for example, in a volunteer who suffered a stroke) versus slower decline (in a participant who was diagnosed with MCI toward the end of the monitoring period).
These methods suggest that assessing changes in gait speed might help identify people at risk of cognitive impairment and other adverse health outcomes.