What is frailty?
Frailty is a medical condition of reduced function and health in older individuals.
Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean someone is frail, but it does increase the odds of developing multiple medical conditions and frailty. Things like inactivity, poor nutrition, and social isolation or loneliness, and multiple medications contribute to frailty. When you are frail, your body does not have the ability to cope with minor illnesses that would normally have minimal impact if you were healthy. With frailty, these minor stressors may trigger rapid and dramatic deterioration.
Older adults living with frailty:
- are more susceptible to large declines in health from minor illnesses such as the flu or adverse events like falls
- are more likely to be hospitalized, need long term care or die
The risk of becoming frail increases with age, but the two are not the same. Those living with frailty are at higher risk for deterioration of their health and death than what is expected based on their age alone.
Older adults living with frailty and their family/friend caregivers need holistic approaches that treat the entire person and health challenges in a coordinated, caring manner.
Common Features of Frailty
People who are frail usually have three or more of five symptoms that often travel together. These include unintentional weight loss (10 or more pounds within the past year), muscle loss and weakness, a feeling of fatigue, slow walking speed and low levels of physical activity.
Learn more about frailty by watching this informative video produced by Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing, University of Adelaide, Australia.
Though frailty is not an inevitable part of aging, over 1.6 million Canadians are currently living with frailty with that number increasing to over 2.5 million over the next 10 years, and there are 3.75 million caregivers in Canada. Click the links below to find out more information and resources about living with frailty and caregiving.
Living with Frailty