Disability in an Elderly Cohort

Lois M. Verbrugge, University of Michigan
Dustin C. Brown, University of Michigan

As a cohort of elderly persons ages, do disability rates rise sharply, or are rates quite steady because the most disabled members die? We study disability over ~20 years for the Assets and Health Dynamics of the Oldest-Old Cohort, ages 70+ at baseline (1993), and 87+ at wave 10 (2010). We study three types of disability: personal care (ADL), household management (IADL), and physical limitations (PLIM). Over time, disability rises for the cohort, especially physical limitations. For decedents, disability is much higher than for survivors; early decedents have higher baseline disability than later decedents. Men and women show same results. In short, as a cohort ages, disability among living people rises moderately by comparison to decedents. Implications for health care are clear; very elderly persons typically do have disability, but far less than if all cohort members were still present.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality