Functional Independence in Late-Life: Maintaining Physical Functioning in Older Adulthood Predicts Daily Life Function after Age 80.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, Volume 71 Suppl 1, p.S79-86 (2016)


BACKGROUND: We examined physical functioning (PF) trajectories (maintaining, slowly declining, and rapidly declining) spanning 15 years in older women aged 65-80 and protective factors that predicted better current levels and less decline in functional independence outcomes after age 80.

METHODS: Women's Health Initiative extension participants who met criteria (enrolled in either the clinical trial or observational study cohort, >80 years at the data release cutoff, PF survey data from initial enrollment to age 80, and functional independence survey data after age 80) were included in these analyses (mean [SD] age = 84.0 [1.4] years; N = 10,478). PF was measured with the SF-36 (mean = 4.9 occasions). Functional independence was measured by self-reported level of dependence in basic and instrumental activities of daily living (ADLs and IADLs) (mean = 3.4 and 3.3 occasions).

RESULTS: Maintaining consistent PF in older adulthood extends functional independence in ADL and IADL in late-life. Protective factors shared by ADL and IADL include maintaining PF over time, self-reported excellent or very good health, no history of hip fracture after age 55, and no history of cardiovascular disease. Better IADL function is uniquely predicted by a body mass index less than 25 and no depression. Less ADL and IADL decline is predicted by better self-reported health, and less IADL decline is uniquely predicted by having no history of hip fracture after age 55.

CONCLUSIONS: Maintaining or improving PF and preventing injury and disease in older adulthood (ages 65-80) has far-reaching implications for improving late-life (after age 80) functional independence.