At Home Mobility Test Increases Safety: Timed Up and Go

Increase home safety with a simple test that measures mobility in seniors

Improving mobility and reducing fall risk in seniors is essential for staying independent for as long as possible. But how do you know how good their mobility is?

There are many factors to consider in understanding someone’s fall risk. One is how well they’re able to get around – functional mobility.

To measure this, physical therapists often use a simple test called Timed Up and Go (TUG) that you can easily use at home.

Giving the TUG test regularly lets you track your older adult’s score over time to see if they maintain, improve, or decline in mobility.

This increases safety because you can proactively make changes to their care or living space before problems come up.

We found a helpful 2 minute video that shows how easy it is to use the Timed Up and Go test at home.

Here, we explain how the test works, how the test results can be used to help seniors, and how to do the TUG test at home.


How the Timed Up and Go test works

The TUG test is straightforward and only takes a few minutes from setup to completion.

Your older adult starts out sitting in a chair.

When you say “go” and start a timer, they get up, walk 10 feet at a safe pace, turn around, walk back, and sit in the chair.

Stop the timer as soon as they sit. That’s it!

The score is the time it takes for your older adult to complete the test.


How to use the Timed Up and Go test results

Many health professionals use the time score to assess fall risk. But studies have also shown that it’s not a strong indicator of a person’s likelihood of falling because there are many factors that contribute to a fall.

Instead, we recommend using the time score to track your older adult’s progress over time.

Knowing their TUG time result helps you be proactive with your older adult’s care needs.

If their scores are staying steady or improving, you’ll know that their current daily routine is working well.

But if the scores show that they’re taking longer and longer to complete the test, it could mean their fall risk is increasing or they need more help.

If that happens, you could have them focus on simple exercises to build balance and strength, hire in-home help, or make home safety improvements.

To help you track their progress, the CDC has a helpful one-page assessment sheet with instructions for the TUG test and space to record their score and notes about their gait and stability.


2 minute video demonstrates the Timed Up and Go test

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill created a straightforward 2 minute video to demonstrate how to give a TUG test.

In the video, the tester shows how to place the chair against the wall, explains the test, and then demonstrates how to do it.

Your older adult must complete the test without help from another person. 

To keep them safe, the video also shows how to “guard” them during the test in case they lose their balance – without interfering with the test. 

And if they get too tired or are unable to complete the test, immediately help them to sit and rest.

One thing we’d add is to have your older adult do a practice run before you do a “real” timed test. That gives them a chance to get used to the motions.


Safety always comes first

Before starting the test, remember that keeping your older adult safe always comes before anything else.

Let your older adult know that this isn’t a contest. They should walk in a purposeful manner at a safe pace, but shouldn’t try to rush.

This test measures how they would normally get around. If they usually use a cane or walker, they should use it during the test.

We’d also suggest using a prominent distance marker that your older adult can easily see and won’t trip over – a chair, garbage can, end table, etc.


Next Step  See how to give the simple Timed Up and Go (TUG) test at home (2 minutes)


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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  • Reply May 14, 2020

    Maureen Matthews

    Love this site, very helpful.

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