• stairs assessment;
  • older adults;
  • squat;
  • rural;
  • discharge planning


To determine whether single-leg squats identify ability to negotiate stairs in older adults at a rural hospital.


Cross-sectional analytical study.


Acute wards and emergency department of a rural hospital in Australia.


A systematic sample of 143 older adults (72 men, 71 women, 80.0 ± 6.8 years) from the emergency department or acute wards of Shoalhaven Hospital referred for a physiotherapy mobility assessment.


Ability to complete up to three single-leg squats and negotiate up to three steps were measured. Covariates and demographic variables were collected.


The squat test had 86% sensitivity, 100% specificity, 100% positive predictive value, and 49% negative predictive value in correctly identifying stair negotiation ability. Participants who could complete single-leg squats were 57 times more likely to be able to independently negotiate stairs than participants who could not complete squats. Multivariate regression analysis indicated that walker use, pain severity and whether participants lived alone were significant and independent predictors of ability to negotiate stairs independently.


Single-leg squats may be an accurate identifier of stair negotiation ability in older adults admitted to the hospital for an acute illness or injury. A traditional stairs assessment would be required if older adults were unable to complete the squat test or had moderate to severe pain, used a walker to ambulate, or did not live alone. The squat test is a potentially more-efficient assessment tool than traditional stair assessments in determining an individual's ability to negotiate stairs and suitability for discharge where poor mobility is a problem.