Wearable sensor-based assessment of frailty

Gráinne Vavasour MScL

Globally the population of older adults is increasing. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of adults over the age of 60 will have almost doubled, representing over 21% of the world’s population. This has significant implications for society because of the increase in physical decline and chronic illness associated with ageing. While not inevitable, frailty is a clinical condition associated with ageing. It is characterised by multi-system decline resulting in an increase in adverse outcomes such as falls, hospitalisation, institutionalisation and mortality. Enabling older adults to monitor their physical activity could raise awareness of their activity levels, promote self-care and potentially mitigate the frailty risks associated with ageing.

This study aims to determine if quantitative measures of physical activity and mobility obtained from a body-worn sensor can be used to classify between frail and non-frail community-dwelling older adults.

The objectives of the study are:

  • To compare parameters of physical function obtained from a body-worn inertial sensor to that obtained from a validated inertial sensor and software system (Kinesis QTUG).

  • To investigate whether community-dwelling older adults can capture objective physical function data using a body-worn inertial sensor unsupervised, in their own home.

  • To determine whether body-worn sensor data can identify the more subtle and gradual changes in physical function and discriminate between frail and non-frail community-dwelling older adults.

The study will include completion of a series of questionnaires by participants during a home visit, in addition to pre-trial evaluation using simple exercises and walk tests while wearing small sensors on different body locations. Participants will take part in a training session on the use of a sensor system and an activity tracker and will independently perform a simple activity unsupervised on two occasions over 48-hours while wearing this sensor system.



Dr. Oonagh Giggins, Research Fellow, NetwellCASALA, DkIT


Dr. Julie Doyle, Director, NetwellCASALA, DkIT

Other supervisors

Dr. Daniel Kelly, Ulster University

Expected completion date of study

October 2022

Publications to date

Vavasour, G., Giggins, O.M., Doyle, J. and Kelly, D. (2021). How wearable sensors have been utilised to evaluate frailty in older adults : a systematic review. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 18(112), pp.1–20. Available here.

Vavasour, G., Giggins, O.M., Moran, O., Doyle, J. and Kelly, D. (2021). Quantifying Steps During a Timed Up and Go Test Using a Wearable Sensor System: A Laboratory-Based Validation Study in Healthy Young and Older Volunteers. 43rd Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS). Available here.