BOSTONA striking portrait of the health of Boston's elderly homeless population is emerging from a new study by the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. The study finds that homeless seniors in Boston experience higher rates of geriatric syndromes, including functional decline, falls, frailty and depression, than seniors in the general population and that many of these conditions may be easily treated if detected.
"Our study shows that older homeless adults in Boston have higher rates of geriatric syndromes compared to the general population," says lead author Rebecca T. Brown, M.D., a research fellow at the Institute for Aging Research at the time the study was conducted. "Many of these syndromes are treatable if addressed proactively."
Researchers from the Institute for Aging Research, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program collaborated on the study, which was funded by The John A. Hartford Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Published online in the Journal of Geriatric Internal Medicine, the study found that geriatric conditions were common in homeless adults ages 50 to 69, including problems with performing daily activities, walking, vision and hearing, as well as falls, frailty, depression and urinary incontinence. The research team examined data from interviews and physical examinations of 247 homeless adults over a six-month period at eight Boston homeless shelters and compared the information with three large population-based study cohorts.
Thirty percent of the homeless seniors reported difficulty performing at least one activity of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, and more than half said they fell in the prior year. Nearly 40 percent experienced major depression, and one-quarter suffered from cognitive decline, primarily impaired executive function (decision-making, planning and j
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Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research