Everyday Experiences of Physical Function and Awareness of Fall Risk in Older Adulthood

Shannon T Mejía, Tai-Te Su, Faith C Washington, Sean Golinski, Jacob J Sosnoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objectives: Falls, the leading cause of death and disability among older adults, occur in daily life when the demands of daily activities surpass the ability to maintain balance. An estimated 30% of older adults misestimate their physical function, placing them at greater risk of falling. This study examined how experiences of physical function are linked to awareness of fall risk in daily life. Research Design and Methods: For 30 consecutive days following a fall-risk assessment, 41 older adults (observations = 1,135; 56% women; age: 65-91) self-assessed objective and subjective fall risk using a custom smartphone application. Alignment of objective and subjective fall risk was indexed as awareness of fall risk. Postural sway was measured by the application. Physical and mobility symptoms and fear of falling were reported daily. Results: At baseline, 49% of participants misestimated their fall risk. Awareness of fall risk varied from day to day and fall risk was misestimated on 40% of days. Multilevel multinomial models showed individual differences in the level of daily symptoms to increase the tendency to misestimate fall risk. Daily symptoms and fear of falling increased awareness of high fall risk, but daily symptoms threatened awareness of low fall risk. Discussion and Implications: Findings suggest that misestimation of fall risk is common in older adulthood and informed by appraisals of physical function. Fall prevention strategies could support older adults in understanding their everyday physical function and provide tools to adjust the demands of activities in daily life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberigad037
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue number4
Early online dateApr 26 2023
StatePublished - 2023


  • Fall prevention
  • Microlongitudinal study
  • Objective and subjective fall risk
  • Subjective aging
  • Within-person processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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