It has been our experience that both practitioners and researchers generally find it preferable to administer the SFT to several people at a time. In fact, group testing is preferred when the goal is to compare performance to the normative data, because all normative scores were collected in a group setting where there tends to be more social interaction and encouragement than when tests are given in an isolated environment. Although the SFT is especially suitable for group administration, careful planning and organization are needed for the testing to run smoothly and efficiently. With the help of six or seven trained assistants, it is possible to test up to 24 participants at a time in a 60- to 90-minute period using a circuit-style setup. If all tests, including the 6-minute walk test, are to be administered indoors, a large community center or gymnasium (approximately 50 feet by 100 feet, or 15 m by 30 m) will be needed. However, a much smaller area will work if the 6-minute walk test can be administered outdoors or if the 2-minute step test is substituted for the 6-minute walk test as the measure of aerobic endurance. Included in this section are instructions for setting up the stations for testing, a list of equipment and supplies that will be needed at each station, guidelines for selecting and training testing assistants, and step-by-step procedures for administering the test items on test day.
For the most efficient use of time and to minimize the fatigue effect for participants, testing stations should be set up circuit-style in the following order: (1) chair stand test, (2) arm curl test, (3) height and weight and 2-minute step test (if 6-minute walk test is not used as the aerobic endurance test), (4) chair sit-and-reach test, (5) back scratch test, and (6) 8-foot up-and-go test. As indicted in the diagram in figure 4.3, the stations should be set up around the periphery of the room, allowing space in the center for the pretest warm-up exercises and for the 6-minute walk if there is room. This type of station setup allows participants to begin their testing at any point in the circuit and then rotate in order to the next station.
When the 6-minute walk test is used, it should always be administered after all other tests are completed. If it is not possible to give the 6-minute walk test (e.g., because of space limitations, bad weather), then the 2-minute step test is administered at station 3 along with the height and weight measurements. If you want to administer both the 2-minute step test and the 6-minute walk test, we recommend including the 2-minute step test as part of the regular circuit and giving the 6-minute walk test on a separate day. For many older adults, it is too exhausting to complete both aerobic tests on the same day. Doing so could result in unsafe conditions as well as inaccurate
For group testing, the specific procedures for administering each of the test items within the circuit is the same as those described in the preceding section on official SFT protocols. However, additional equipment and supplies will be needed, as well as trained assistants to help at each of the stations.
Testing Equipment, Supplies, and Assistants
For group testing to run smoothly, each station should be properly set up in advance with all the required equipment and supplies. Although a special feature of the SFT is that it does not require extensive equipment, you should not underestimate how long it takes to gather the needed items. Table 4.2 lists the specific equipment and supplies, as well as the number of assistants, needed at each station. Brief organizational instructions are also provided. Recall that table 4.1 provides suggested vendors and sources for obtaining the equipment and supplies.
Although not absolutely necessary, it is convenient to have a small table (such as a card table) set up at each testing station, or, if possible, to arrange the testing stations near a counter, a table, a bench, or a ledge of some type that can provide a place to lay out the testing supplies (scorecards, pencils, stopwatches). To facilitate assigning and rotating participants, it is also helpful to post station signs indicating the test name and number of each station. Sample copies of station signs with brief test descriptions are included in appendix G. The signs can be copied, mounted, and laminated to make them more durable for repeated use.
As an aid in organizing and keeping track of all supplies and equipment, and in ensuring they are readily available at each station on test day, we have found it helpful to use numbered containers (e.g., gift bags or shopping bags) to collect and transport the items for each station. For example, a small bag labeled Station 1 would contain all the items needed to conduct the chair stand test: a stopwatch, scorecards, and pencils. Similarly, a somewhat larger bag labeled Station 6 would contain the items needed for the 8-foot up-and-go: a stopwatch, tape measure, cone (or similar marker), scorecards, and pencils. In fact, if you plan to conduct the tests on multiple occasions, it is helpful to list the contents on the outside of each bag, making it easy to double-check to see that all equipment and supplies are available each time they are needed.