How wearable sensors have been utilised to evaluate frailty in older adults: a systematic review

Daniel Kelly, Grainne Vavasour, Oonagh Giggins, Julie Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


Background Globally the population of older adults is increasing. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of adults over the age of 60 will represent over 21% of the world’s population. Frailty is a clinical condition associated with ageing resulting in an increase in adverse outcomes. It is considered the greatest challenge facing an ageing population affecting an estimated 16% of community-dwelling populations worldwide. Aim The aim of this systematic review is to explore how wearable sensors have been used to assess frailty in older adults. Method Electronic databases Medline, Science Direct, Scopus, and CINAHL were systematically searched March 2020 and November 2020. A search constraint of articles published in English, between January 2010 and November 2020 was applied. Papers included were primary observational studies involving; older adults aged > 60 years, used a wearable sensor to provide quantitative measurements of physical activity (PA) or mobility and a measure of frailty. Studies were excluded if they used non-wearable sensors for outcome measurement or outlined an algorithm or application development exclusively. The methodological quality of the selected studies was assessed using the Appraisal Tool for Cross-sectional Studies (AXIS). Results Twenty-nine studies examining the use of wearable sensors to assess and discriminate between stages of frailty in older adults were included. Thirteen different body-worn sensors were used in eight different body-locations. Participants were community-dwelling older adults. Studies were performed in home, laboratory or hospital settings. Postural transitions, number of steps, percentage of time in PA and intensity of PA together were the most frequently measured parameters followed closely by gait speed. All but one study demonstrated an association between PA and level of frailty. All reports of gait speed indicate correlation with frailty. Conclusions Wearable sensors have been successfully used to evaluate frailty in older adults. Further research is needed to identify a feasible, user-friendly device and body-location that can be used to identify signs of pre-frailty in community-dwelling older adults. This would facilitate early identification and targeted intervention to reduce the burden of frailty in an ageing population.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 8 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of the DkIT Library staff to the database search strategy.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Frailty
  • Mobility
  • Older adults
  • Physical Activity
  • Wearable sensor


Dive into the research topics of 'How wearable sensors have been utilised to evaluate frailty in older adults: a systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this