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Disability Factor Among Older Americans Shows Improvement

ess severe impairments, with the greatest improvements seen among the most severely impaired. The researchers note that environmental modifications, assistive technologies and biomedical advances may be factors in these declines.

The proportion of people without disabilities increased the most in the oldest age group, rising by 32.6 percent among those 85 years and older. The percentage of Medicare enrollees age 65 and older who lived in long-term care institutions such as nursing homes dropped dramatically from 7.5 percent to 4.0 percent. The emergence of assisted-living options, changes in Medicare reimbursement policies and improved rehabilitation services may have fueled this decrease in institutionalization.

If they continue as anticipated, the downward trends in chronic disability rates among older adults could help bolster the Medicare program’s fiscal health, the researchers suggest.

Funded through a cooperative agreement between the NIA and Duke University, the NLTCS is a periodic federal government survey of approximately 20,000 Medicare enrollees.

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