The Elderly Mobility Scale: Everything You Need to Know


Many seniors get to a stage when it’s no longer possible for them to live comfortably without a number of mobility aids or help from a caregiver. However, family and friends may not easily be able to tell when that time has come.

How can you tell that your aging loved one needs to live under special care and close supervision?

Limited mobility often comes with old age due to debilitating muscle and joint issues. Many seniors find it increasingly difficult to move due to diseases such as arthritis, neurological, and osteoporosis diseases.

Dealing with mobility issues can seem like imprisonment to many senior citizens but fortunately, modern technology and medical care can help elderly people deal with at least some of the symptoms.

The question of determining if an elderly friend or relative has mobility issues is tough, isn’t it? That’s why health care professionals have come up with the elderly mobility scale. The test comes with limitations. However, it has greatly helped seniors come up with more objective life determinations.

What is The Elderly Mobility Scale?

The elderly mobility scale refers to the metric used by health experts to evaluate and assess seniors’ mobility. For instance, they refer to it when monitoring the mobility of the frail senior citizens at the beginning of treatment. To confirm the effectiveness of the treatment on the subject, reassessment is done once the treatment is over.

After the mobility assessment of the elderly is done, the geriatric care professionals compare the scores. By doing so, they’re able to determine how effective the treatment has worked.

The elderly mobility score acts as an essential tool to help doctors determine the kind of mobility aids needed by the elderly person. This, in turn, improves the senior’s quality of life.

How Do Seniors Take the Elderly Mobility Scale (EMS)?

This is a simple exercise that seniors don’t need to worry about. The entire process only takes about 20 minutes and won’t cause any distress or discomfort.

Equipment Required For Elderly Mobility Scale

For the senior to take the test, they’ll need:

  • Chair and Bed
  • Stopwatch
  • Meter Rule
  • Walking aid or Yardstick

It’s important that the participant uses any walking aids he/she usually uses and enough space to fit a 30-foot walk. Also, you must have a copy of the Elderly Mobility Scale to fill in the categories. You can find the Elderly Mobility Scale calculator here.

How Does It Work?

When seniors get the hint that they’re about to take this test, they may get anxious. After all, no-one likes a test and to someone who is already embarrassed by the symptoms of aging, it can seem like they are being judged. So, it’s important that you are positive and reassure them that the test is purely to help them to get the aids they need to make their lives easier.

The test is easy as it only needs the patient to practice basic movements. For instance, you’ll need to measure their walking pace, functional reach, and the amount of assistance the patient needs to move from seated to standing positions.

A score is then assigned to each question.  For instance, if the patient is able to stand without any assistance, they earn three points. The points reduce with the increase of support needed to stand. The maximum possible scores for the test are 20 points.

Interpretation of The Elderly Mobility Scale Scores (EMS)

The scores you’ll get will determine the kind of mobility aids you’ll need after the test. The following are the interpretations of the scale scores:

EMS Score 14-20

This scoring range indicates that you’re able to walk safely and freely maneuver from place to place. Although you may need some help, scoring this EMS score means that you have enough mobility to safely move around the home premises.

EMS Score 10-13

Scoring between this score range indicates that you’re at the borderline. Although you aren’t much dependent, you’ll still need some assistance with activities of daily living. You may need additional monitoring thereafter to determine the possibilities of more mobility limitations in the future.

EMS Score 10 and below

Seniors having these scores on the elderly mobility scale are highly dependent. They’ll need assistance in carrying out various activities such as bathing, walking, and dressing. Senior citizens with these scores typically need extensive care.

Interpreting the EMS Score

From these interpretations, you have seen that the scores close to 20 are the best. These indicate perfect performance, unlimited mobility, and the senior’s independence.

On the other hand, 0 is the least number on the scale which means no mobility. Seniors scoring this score tend to be dependent on almost all activities, and they cannot live alone.

Categories of Elderly Mobility Scale

The Elderly mobility scale has 7 categories based on seniors’ functional performance. Each of these categories is assigned a score based on the just concluded assessment.  The following are the 7 categories of mobility assessment:

  • Gait
  • Functional reach
  • Timed walk (about 20 foot)
  • Sit to stand
  • Standing
  • Sitting to laying
  • Laying to sitting

Why You Should Take the Elderly Mobility Scale Test (EMS)

The following are a few of many benefits of assessing seniors’ mobility using the Elderly Mobility Scale:

  • To begin with, EMS is quite a reliable assessment tool. It’s taken to be an inter-rater assessing tool based on a large consensus among health care experts to use it in mobility assessment.
  • Furthermore, the assessment needs minimal training for health care experts to be able to conduct the assessment. Caregivers can also check their senior loved one’s mobility via this assessment tool at home and then consult a doctor. It will give a rough idea about the senior’s mobility which can help diagnose issues quickly and get necessary care.
  • You can identify the areas that need special care and assistance for your elderly loved one. Such as low scores on the Gait category will pinpoint the need for walking aid for the senior. 
  • It prevents the elderly person from hiding their limitations due to embarrassment. They may have a great deal of trouble doing personal care such as bathing or using the bathroom but won’t tell a family member for fear of embarrassment.
  • Lastly, the test is both significant and functional. To determine the functionality and significance of this test, research was conducted in 2007. The outcomes showed that the Elderly Mobility Scale was the most effective tool for assessing and classifying senior citizens’ placements.


Though the Elderly Mobility Score isn’t a form of treatment, it has come to play a significant role in improving the quality of life of our loved ones as it indicates the mobility issues on time.

This, therefore, helps you to consult a health care professional to conduct the relevant assessment to determine how the life of your loved one can be improved.

Sincerely speaking, everyone will eventually get old, including you. It’s therefore reasonable to help your elderly loved ones when you can, and hopefully, you’ll receive the same kind of assistance when you need it too.

If your loved one happens to fall under the lower score bracket of the elderly mobility scale, it’s essential you get the right care and mobility aids for them.

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