Towards a core-set of mobility measures in ageing research: The need to define mobility and its constructs

Esmee M. Reijnierse, Sven J.G. Geelen, Marike van der Schaaf, Bart Visser, Rob C.I. Wüst, Mirjam Pijnappels, Carel G.M. Meskers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Mobility is a key determinant and outcome of healthy ageing but its definition, conceptual framework and underlying constructs within the physical domain may need clarification for data comparison and sharing in ageing research. This study aimed to (1) review definitions and conceptual frameworks of mobility, (2) explore agreement on the definition of mobility, conceptual frameworks, constructs and measures of mobility, and (3) define, classify and identify constructs.

METHODS: A three-step approach was adopted: a literature review and two rounds of expert questionnaires (n = 64, n = 31, respectively). Agreement on statements was assessed using a five-point Likert scale; the answer options 'strongly agree' or 'agree' were combined. The percentage of respondents was subsequently used to classify agreements for each statement as: strong (≥ 80%), moderate (≥ 70% and < 80%) and low (< 70%).

RESULTS: A variety of definitions of mobility, conceptual frameworks and constructs were found in the literature and among respondents. Strong agreement was found on defining mobility as the ability to move, including the use of assistive devices. Multiple constructs and measures were identified, but low agreements and variability were found on definitions, classifications and identification of constructs. Strong agreements were found on defining physical capacity (what a person is maximally capable of, 'can do') and performance (what a person actually does in their daily life, 'do') as key constructs of mobility.

CONCLUSION: Agreements on definitions of mobility, physical capacity and performance were found, but constructs of mobility need to be further identified, defined and classified appropriately. Clear terminology and definitions are essential to facilitate communication and interpretation in operationalising the physical domain of mobility as a prerequisite for standardisation of mobility measures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number220
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Early online date6 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by an innovation grant from the Amsterdam Movement Sciences research institute. The funder had no role in the study design, data collection, data analysis, interpretation of data and writing the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Mobility limitation
  • Physical capacity
  • Physical performance


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