Perspectives on the Recent Decline in Disability at Older Ages

September 2005 | Douglas A. Wolf, Kelly Hunt, James Knickman

A decline has been found in the prevalence of disability among the older U.S. population during the 1980s and 1990s. One source of evidence for this decline is data from the National Long-Term Care Survey (NLTCS). This article investigates possible ambiguities in measuring disability using large-scale household surveys, illustrating the consequences of such problems with new analyses of NLTCS data. The reanalysis suggests a more gradual decline in disability than that found in prior research. The article also discusses three societal trends in areas other than health or functioning that might contribute to declines in disability levels: a reduced supply of informal care, changes in the technology of self-care, and changes in the definition and perception of both “ability” and “disability.”

Author(s): Douglas A. Wolf; Kelly Hunt; James Knickman

Keywords: disability; trends; measurement

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Volume 83, Issue 3 (pages 365–395)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2005.00406.x
Published in 2005