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May 12, 1993

Older People Now More Able-bodied Than Before

JAMA. 1993;269(18):2333-2337. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500180017008

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FACILITIES that provide long-term care for the elderly will need to take into account some important new findings about the prevalence of disability and the use of assistive devices. Nearly 24 million persons out of a population of about 31 million age 65 years and older were classified as "nondisabled" in 1989-16.3% more than in 1982.

This is one of the findings by three investigators working at Duke University's Center for Demographic Studies, Durham, NC. They found that not only did disability rates among older people fall substantially during the 1980s, but that those who are disabled tend to rely less on personal help and more on assistive devices.

The Duke findings challenge the notion that, with an increasingly older population, more people will become dependent. "They add dramatically to a growing body of research that suggests aging is not synonymous with disability and decline," say officials of the National