Public health initiatives that focus attention on how older adults adapt to disability can encourage independence and promote quality of life, according to recent study results published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers analyzed the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study, a study of 8,077 Medicare enrollees aged 65 years and older. In interviews, researchers asked about seven activities of daily living and self-care and identified five hierarchical stages, including fully able, successful accommodation with devices, activity reduction, difficulty despite accommodations and receipt of help. Researchers measured quality of life associated with each stage.
Study results showed 31% of older adults were fully able to complete self-care and mobility activities. Of the remaining group, 25% used assistive devices, 6% reduced their activities, 18% reported difficulty despite accommodations and 21% received help from others. Researchers found physical and cognitive capacity decreased while symptoms and multi-morbidity increased with successive stages.
Older adults who were able to successfully accommodate their disabilities were more likely to participate in valued activities and have greater well-being, according to the study. Women were more likely than men to do things on their own by using assistive devices, whereas blacks and Hispanics were much less likely than whites and Asians to do so. Older adults with low incomes were also less likely to successfully accommodate declines in their functional abilities.
“Two groups that we identified may be especially important targets for public health intervention,” Vicki Freedman, PhD, research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, stated in a press release. “These are the seven million older adults who have difficulty carrying out activities alone with whatever accommodations they have already made, and the additional 2.1 million who have reduced their activity levels but do not experience or acknowledge that they are having difficulty.”
For more information:
Freedman VA. J Am Public Health Assoc. 2013;doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301687.
Disclosure: Freedman has no relevant financial disclosures.