Disability Onset before Late Life: Implications for Supportive Services

Brenda Spillman, Urban Institute

Relatively little is known about the number and characteristics of persons who enter retirement ages already experiencing functional limitations, although there is widespread belief that improved medical treatments and survival may be contributing to a higher proportion of older persons with longstanding disabilities that began in midlife or earlier. The National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) provides an enhanced ability to identify this group through a combination of survey reports and administrative data and to examine whether and how they differ from persons with limitations beginning in later life. In this presentation, we exploit this opportunity to more carefully characterize the population with early onset functional limitations and profile how their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics; social and family support networks; assistive technology and environmental accommodations; and use of other supportive services compare with those for older persons with later-onset limitation.

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Presented in Session 145: The National Health and Aging Trends Study: A New Resource for Studying Late-Life Disability Trends, Trajectories and Consequences