Reasons for Disability in Old Age

Low physical activity, having cognitive impairment, poor lower extremity function, slower gross motor rotation and being hospitalised are some of the reasons for increase in your chances of becoming disabled with age according to the researchers at Yale School of Medicine. However, women are at a greater risk of becoming disabled than men at older ages. A research team led by Thomas Gill, M.D. published its findings from data collected in 12 years in the Jan.17 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr Thomas Gill is  the Humana Foundation Professor of Geriatric Medicine and professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health at Yale School of Medicine.

As one gets older, the inability to walk and perform day-to-day functions becomes very difficult or rather impossible. Thus to know the cause of this a group of six hundred and forty one people was followed for 12 years and the data thus collected was analysed for the study. All the participants were aged seventy or above and could walk a quarter mile without any kind of assistance or were active drivers at the beginning of the study. They all could easily perform their daily activities also like bathing and dressing. Gill said, “Losing the ability to walk independently not only leads to a poorer overall quality of life, but prolonged disability leads to higher rates of illness, death, depression and social isolation.”
Old age

The participants were assessed for the potential disability risk factors every 18 months between 1998 and 2008 by Dr Gill and his team. Those who needed assistance in walking were termed a walking disabled and those who had not driven a car for a month were declared driving disabled. The participants were assessed for any kind of exposure to the causes of disability like illness and hospitalization or any kind of injury. This restricted any kind of activity by the participants and increased the likelihood of disability by 6-fold.  This assessment was performed by the research team every month.

The study concluded that multiple risk factors combined with the subsequent illness and injury, which in turn led to hospitalization and the restricted activity of the participants, can be associated to the increase in the chances of developing a long-term disability in walking and driving. Any disability, which persisted for six or more months, was considered long-term disability. Dr Gill concluded, “We’ve learned that targeted strategies are needed to prevent disability among older people living independently in the community.”

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