Mobility, defined as an individual's ability to move about effectively in his or her surroundings, is fundamental to independence and quality of life. Difficulty with mobility (mobility disability) is highly prevalent in older adult populations, with negative consequences for independence and social isolation. Recent models of disability draw attention to the role of environmental factors that can interact with an individual's underlying impairments or capacities to impede or enhance a person's ability to be independent in mobility. For example, living on a street without continuous, barrier-free sidewalks may hinder mobility for a person living with pain or leg weakness due to arthritis. Using secondary analyses with data from the recently launched National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), this proposal aims to further our understanding of the dynamic nature of the disablement process. Funded by the NIA, NHATS is a nationally representative study designed to support the investigation of disability trends and dynamics in later life. NHATS uses innovative measures of disability and function, captured both objectively (through physical performance measures) and subjectively (through survey questions), to tease apart the various elements along the disablement process. In addition, interviewer observations of each respondent's residential location provide objective data on the barriers and facilitators in the surrounding built environment. Drawing on this unique set of measures in a large, nationally representative sample, this proposal seeks to understand how characteristics in the built environment may increase the risk of, or buffer against, mobility disability and participation restriction in older adults. The relationship between the built environment and mobility disability is complex, incorporating interactions between individual and environmental factors. A better understanding of the dynamics in this relationship is critical for the planning and development of 'age-friendly'environments, which allow older adults to 'age in place'.

Public Health Relevance

Older adults are particularly dependent on their local communities, especially when they are no longer able to drive. Drawing on a unique set of measures in a large, nationally representative sample, this proposal seeks to understand how characteristics in the built environment may increase the risk of, or buffer against, mobility disability and participation restriction in older adults. A better understanding of the dynamics in the relationship between individual capacity and environmental demand is critical for the planning and development of 'age- friendly'environments, which allow older adults to 'age in place'.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Type
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
5R03AG043661-02
Application #
8712308
Study Section
(SSPB)
Program Officer
Haaga, John G
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Department
Biostatistics & Other Math Sci
Type
Organized Research Units
DUNS #
City
Ann Arbor
State
MI
Country
United States
Zip Code
48109
Clarke, Philippa J (2014) The role of the built environment and assistive devices for outdoor mobility in later life. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 69 Suppl 1:S8-15