Perspective: The Case for Developing a Movement System Framework for Older Adults

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Leaders and scholars of multiple academies of the American Physical Therapy Association are developing and defining movement system diagnoses to guide practice. However, there is no consensus on the need for or content of such frameworks. This Perspective describes current thought about movement system diagnoses in physical therapy and summarizes the work of the Academy of Geriatrics (APTA Geriatrics) Movement System Diagnosis Task Force (GMS-TF) as it contributes to the movement system diagnosis discussion within the profession. Initially convened to define movement system diagnostic labels unique to older adults, the GMS-TF’s developmental process identified the need for a clearer diagnostic framework onto which specific diagnoses will later be added. Although The World Health Organization International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (WHO-ICF) model is a strong foundation for the patient-client management model, the GMS-TF proposes formal incorporation of the Geriatric 5Ms (mobility, medications, memory, multi-complexity, and “what matters most”) into a movement system framework for older adults. The GMS-TF concurs with the APTA Academy of Neurology Movement System Task Force proposal that observation and analysis of key functional tasks are the foundation of any examination of older adults. The GMS-TF suggests adding several additional movement tasks important to older adults. The GMS-TF believes this strategy highlights the health care needs of older adults and prioritizes physical therapy care of older adults with complex needs. This Perspective is the foundation for a future movement system diagnosis model for older adults that will complement and facilitate the development of models of care to be applied across the lifespan.


Online ahead of print, July 6, 2023






Oxford University Press