Physical function and sense of autonomy determine life-space mobility in older people

9 Apr 2014

Physical function and sense of autonomy are independent determinants of life-space mobility in older people, according to a study conducted at the Gerontology Research Centre of the University of Jyväskylä. In the project, 848 older men and women living independently in the Jyväskylä region in Central Finland were interviewed in their own homes.

Life-space mobility reflects a person’s mobility with or without the use of a vehicle. It reflects an individual’s opportunities to participate in society. An individual’s life-space may be restricted to one room, while going outdoors, into town or beyond increases the life-space and thus affects a person’s quality of life.

"Sense of autonomy is the perception of control over one’s life. Physical limitations may restrict a person’s possibilities to participate in activities outside their own home when and how they want to. Other factors, such as being a caregiver or the availability of transportation, may also influence sense of autonomy," Postdoctoral Researcher Erja Portegijs explains.

"Both physical function and sense of autonomy affect a person’s behaviour. This means that we may need to pay attention to psychosocial factors, in addition to physical function, when evaluating a person’s mobility or life-space in a clinical setting, for instance," Portegijs says.

The results of the study were published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on 21 March 2014.

The work was funded through the Academy of Finland's research programme The Future of Living and Housing (ASU-LIVE) and by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

The Gerontology Research Centre (GEREC) is a joint effort between the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Tampere.

For more information, please contact Erja Portegijs, tel. +358 40 481 4347,

Portegijs E, Rantakokko M, Mikkola TM, Viljanen A, Rantanen T. Association Between Physical Performance and Sense of Autonomy in Outdoor Activities and Life-Space Mobility in Community-Dwelling Older People. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2014 (early online). DOI: 10.1111/jgs.12763;jsessionid=77F223ED24369314FB90B83139E0AB65.f03t03

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