Nearly 40% of people ages 65 and older had at least one disability, according to a Dec. 2 U.S. Census Bureau report covering 2008-12. Of those 15.7 million people, two-thirds of them say they had difficulty in walking or climbing, according to a news release.
Difficulty with independent living, such as visiting a doctors office or shopping, was the second-most cited disability, according to the report, followed by serious difficulty in hearing, cognitive difficulty, difficulty bathing or dressing, and serious difficulty seeing.
While populous states such as California, Florida, New York and Texas had the largest number of older people with a disability, high disability rates were seen in southern counties, especially central Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta.
Older Americans With a Disability: 2008-12, a report based on data collected during the American Community Survey, examines disability status by age, sex and selected socioeconomic characteristics, such as marital status, living arrangement, educational attainment and poverty status.
The statistics provided in this report can help anticipate future disability prevalence in the older population, Wan He, a demographer from the Census Bureaus Population Division, said in the release. The figures can be used to help the older population with a disability, their families and society at-large plan strategies and prepare for daily life tasks and old-age care.
Other report highlights include:
More than half (54.4%) of the older population who had not graduated from high school had a disability, twice the rate of those with a bachelors degree or higher (26%). This inverse relationship between educational attainment and likelihood of having a disability was found across age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.
More than one-third of those ages 85 and older with a disability lived alone, compared with one-fourth of those ages 65 to 74.
About 13% of the older household population with a disability lived in poverty; in contrast, 7% of those without a disability were in poverty.
The older population with a disability was disproportionately concentrated among those ages 85 and older. This group represented 13.6% of the total older population but accounted for 25.4% of the older population with a disability.
Women ages 65 and older were more likely than men ages 65 and older to have five of the six types of disability included in the American Community Survey, especially ambulatory difficulty. Older womens higher rates for disability are, in part, because women live longer.
Older mens higher likelihood for having a hearing disability might reflect the lifelong occupational differentials between men and women, where men may be more likely to have worked in industries that cause noise-induced hearing loss.
Disability rates were lower for married older people than for those widowed or in other categories of marital status.
The Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health commissioned this report and also supports other Census Bureau reports on aging research.