The influence of personal care and assistive devices on the measurement of disability

Emily M. Agree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


The goal of all long-term care arrangements is to reduce the disabling effects of physical impairments and functional limitations. However, the means with which individuals cope with disability may not be equivalent and these differences may influence self-reports of disability in surveys. This paper examines assistive devices and personal care as factors in the measurement of disability among persons aged 70 and older in the community using the 1994 Survey of Asset and Health Dynamics of the Oldest Old (AHEAD) in the US. The use of assistive technology differs from personal care on a fundamental level. It does not require the ongoing cooperation or coordination of other people and therefore increases the sense of independence with which a disabled individual can meet their long-term care needs. Results indicate that older individuals can expect to spend most of their remaining years in good functional health, but up to two-thirds of disabled years will be spent with unmet ADL needs. Among those who are disabled, those who use only equipment and no personal care report less residual difficulty with mobility than those who use personal assistance (either alone or in combination with equipment) but the use of equipment alone is most effective for those with the least severe limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-443
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1999


  • Active life expectancy
  • Aging
  • Disability
  • Long-term care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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