TABLE 13-2 Physical Health and Functioning of the Black Elderly (percentage) Comparing the Young, Middle-aged, and Very Old (N = 734)

 

Age Groups

Physical Functioning

65–74 (N = 472)

75–79 (N = 142)

80 and older (N = 130)

Number of problems with activities of daily living (ADL)

Nonea

42.2

38.8

23.8

1-2b

36.6

35.0

40.0

3-7c

21.1

26.3

36.3

Extent of physical or functional limitation

Not limited at all or limited very little

50.9

53.5

40.8

Limited some

23.2

21.8

24.6

Limited "a great deal"

26.0

24.6

34.6

a Three-generation telephone respondents were excluded from the percentage base.

b Sources on the Overall Health Status Index from 1–13 (high scores = worse health).

c Cross-section respondents excluded from percentage base.

SOURCE: Adapted from R. C. Gibson and J. Jackson, "The Health, Physical Functioning, and Informal Supports of the Black Elderly," Vol. 65, Suppl., p. 2, Milbank Quarterly, 1987.

  1. In the Harvard Alumni Study,31 the most active men in the two oldest age groups (60 to 69 and 70 to 84) had about one-half the risk of dying prematurely as that for the least active men. (Figure 13-3 shows the age-specific death rates over a 16-year follow-up period.)

  2. Numerous reports from the Alameda County Study24 show all-cause mortality to be significantly and positively associated with smoking, poor sleep habits, physical inactivity, relative overweight, immoderate alcohol intake, not eating breakfast, and regular snacking. The data also show a relative risk of 1.38 for all-cause mortality in sedentary versus physically active individuals in the 60 to 69 age group and a risk of 1.37 in the 70 and older group.

Impairment, Disability, and Handicap

Most of the literature concerned with the elderly does not use the World Health Organization's (WHO) classification for the consequences of disease46 (see Chapter 2) to describe the various burdens experienced by individuals who are physically inactive. The observations



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