Disability Rises Gradually for a Cohort of Older Americans

A MiCDA Researcher publication abstract

Verbrugge, Lois M., Dustin Brown, and Anna Zajacova. 2017. "Disability Rises Gradually for a Cohort of Older Americans." Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological and Social Sciences, 72(1): 151-161.

We examine changes in average disability over nearly two decades for a large epidemiological cohort of older Americans. As some people exit by mortality, do average disability levels for the living cohort rise rapidly, rise gradually, stay steady, or decline? We use data from the Study of Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) cohort for 1993–2010. Cohort members are aged 70+ in 1993 (mean = 77.5 years), and the survivors are aged 87+ in 2010 (mean = 90.2 years). We analyze personal care disability (activities of daily living), household management disability (instrumental activities of daily living), and physical limitations, looking at average disability for the living cohort over time and the disability histories for decedent and survivor groups. We find that average disability rises gradually over time for the living cohort. Earlier decedent groups have higher average disability than later ones. Near death, disability rises sharply for all decedent groups. Longer surviving groups have less average disability, and slower disability increases, than shorter surviving groups. As a cohort ages, average disability among living members increases gradually, suggesting behavioral, psychological, and biological fitness in very old persons.


PMCID: PMC5156489. (Pub Med Central)

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