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Brown RT, Diaz-Ramirez LG, Boscardin WJ, Cappola AR, Lee SJ, Steinman MA. Changes in the Hierarchy of Functional Impairment From Middle Age to Older Age. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. 2022 Aug 12; 77(8):1577-1584.
BACKGROUND: Understanding the hierarchy of functional impairment in older adults has helped illuminate mechanisms of impairment and inform interventions, but little is known about whether hierarchies vary by age. We compared the pattern of new-onset impairments in activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental ADLs (IADLs) from middle age through older age. METHODS: We conducted a cohort study using nationally representative data from 32 486 individuals enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study. The outcomes were new-onset impairment in each ADL and IADL, defined as self-reported difficulty performing each task, assessed yearly for 9 years. We used multistate models and competing risks survival analysis to estimate the cumulative incidence of impairment in each task by age group (ages 50-64, 65-74, 75-84, and 85 or older). RESULTS: The pattern of incident ADL impairments differed by age group. Among individuals ages 50-64 and 65-74 who were independent at baseline, over 9 years'' follow-up, difficulties dressing and transferring were the most common impairments to develop. In individuals ages 75-84 and 85 or older who were independent at baseline, difficulties bathing, dressing, and walking were most common. For IADLs, the pattern of impairments was similar across age groups; difficulty shopping was most common followed by difficulty managing money and preparing meals. Complementary analyses demonstrated a similar pattern. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that the hierarchy of ADL impairment differs by age. These findings have implications for the development of age-specific interventions to prevent or delay functional impairment.