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OLDER PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
The greatest increases in the number of older people with disabilities (and of older people as a whole) were recorded for those in the range over 74 years (graph 9.8). The rate of disability was similar for men and women in both 1998 (54% in each case) and 2003 (55% and 56% respectively). However, as more women than men live to older ages, the number of older women with disabilities was 28% higher than that of older men with disabilities, in both 1998 and 2003.
PROFOUND OR SEVERE LIMITATION
Core-activity limitation refers to a limitation in the core activities of self care, communication or mobility. Levels of severity of these limitations are: profound; severe; moderate; and mild.
Older people with a disability varied in the type and severity of the limitations or impairments they had. In 2003, 22% of all older people had a profound or severe core-activity limitation. That is, they were limited in everyday activities (e.g. walking or dressing), or sometimes needed help to do these things, or had difficulty communicating. Of people aged 65-69 years, 10% had a profound or severe core-activity limitation, increasing to 20% of those aged 75-79 years and 58% of those aged 85 years and over (graph 9.19).
The proportion of older people with a profound or severe core-activity limitation remained about the same in 1998 and 2003 (21% and 22% respectively). Mostly resulting from the total increase in the number of older people, older people with a profound or severe core-activity limitation increased in number between 1998 and 2003 from 481,000 to 562,000.
In contrast to the similar overall rates of disability reported for older men and older women, older women were more likely than older men to have a profound or severe core-activity limitation. In 1998 and 2003, this was observed for all five-year age groups of older people, with the greatest differences between the rates observed for the oldest age groups. In 1998, 16% of older men and 25% of older women had a profound or severe core-activity limitation, increasing to 17% and 27% respectively in 2003.
In both 1998 and 2003, most older people with disabilities lived in private dwellings, either with other people or alone. As people age, their living arrangements may change to suit their circumstances. This is often as a result of illness or disability, or of a transition in their life, such as the death of a spouse. People with disabilities aged 85 years and over are less likely than people aged 65-74 years to be living with a partner or other family member, and more likely to be living alone or in cared accommodation (graph 9.10).
Because men have a shorter life expectancy than women, and are on average somewhat older than the women they marry, older men are more likely than older women to live in family situations, particularly with partners. In 2003, this pattern was observed for older people with disabilities and for older people as a whole.
In 2003, most of the 1.4 million older people with disabilities (83%) lived in a private dwelling such as a house, a flat or a home unit (table 9.11). About one in ten older people with disabilities lived in cared accommodation such as nursing homes and aged-care hostels (12%). The remaining 6% lived in non-private dwellings other than cared accommodation, such as retirement villages, staff quarters, religious institutions, or boarding houses.
There were differences in living arrangements of older people with disabilities by age. The proportion living in cared accommodation, or living alone in a private dwelling, was higher at older ages. In 2003, 3% of people with disabilities aged 65-74 years lived in cared accommodation, compared with 10% of people aged 75-84 years and 37% of people aged 85 years and over.
Between 1998 and 2003 there was an increase in the proportion of older people with disabilities living in non-private dwellings other than cared accommodation, from 2% to 6%. This may relate to increases in the availability of community care or older people choosing age-specific housing such as units in retirement villages which provide some care on-site. The increase was accompanied by decreases both in the proportion living in private dwellings (from 85% to 83%) and in cared accommodation (from 13% to 12% respectively).
Changes in the use of cared accommodation are of particular interest. The decrease in the proportion of older people with disabilities living in cared accommodation occurred across all age groups of older people. The decrease among those aged 85 years and over was from 42% in 1998 to 37% in 2003 (graph 9.12). These decreases in the proportion of older people with disabilities living in cared accommodation were essentially offset by the increase in the older population over the period. Nevertheless there was a small decrease in the absolute number of older people with disabilities living in cared accommodation, from 162,000 to 159,000.
In both 1998 and 2003, almost all older people with a disability who were in cared accommodation had a profound or severe core-activity limitation (96% and 97% respectively). This is consistent with the fact that entry to cared accommodation involves a disability assessment. However, the majority of older people with profound or severe core-activity limitations lived in households (73% in 2003), rather than in cared accommodation. The proportion who did live in cared accommodation decreased from 32% to 27% between 1998 and 2003.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2001, Australia's Welfare 2001, AIHW, Canberra.
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