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The complex definition of elderly

Identifying pre-frailty in the elderly could help to avoid disability and consequent loss of independence. A group of researchers used graph theory to unscramble and identify important indicators that lead to frailty.
The complex definition of elderly
The AGEING NETWORK (Frailty, disability, depression and cognitive impairment in ageing; untangling complex relationships in the older population) project has used graph theory to construct a framework to show the complex relationships between symptoms and constructs that are important in ageing. Building several networks, the researchers described these processes and assessed intra-individual differences.

Project researchers used data from the Wave 1 of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing to investigate the links between frailty, disability, depression and cognitive impairment. The information formed four clusters – disability, depression and two cognitive clusters. An unexpected result was that frailty did not form a defined cluster.

The two most significant symptoms of frailty were self-reported physical inactivity and weakness as measured by grip strength. The least central symptom was weight loss. As the frailty phenotype involves decline that is multi-system, it would appear that the symptoms are embedded in the other clusters.

Applying network analysis, researchers obtained a broader understanding of the indicators of cognition in a specific cluster. Significantly, there are differences of opinion as to the meaning of the tests used to assess the relationships. The results from the analysis indicate when there is more than one memory domain being tested and where there is overlap.

Previous research had suggested that frailty, disability, depression and cognition are distinct, but AGEING NETWORK research shows that there can be overlap. Defining the relationships will help to provide the best action possible for treatment of older adults as well as identify targeted interventions.

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Life Sciences


Elderly, frailty, disability, depression, cognitive impairment
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