Age-related variation in health status after age 60

As life expectancy continues to expand, a larger number of people are expected to reach old age. This period of life is characterized by an increase in disabilities, functional limitations and in number of morbidities. Quality of life of older adults, the demand for health care and social services, and the burden on families might consequently become higher. To overcome this problem one of the first steps is to understand how health varies across age groups. In the study Age-related variation in health status after age 60 we aimed to characterize the health status of 60+ old adults and to detect the age-related variability in health.

The study provided a clear picture of heterogeneous health of older adults, which varies from good functioning, lack of disability, and no morbidity through morbidity and multimorbidity to severe disability. The positive founding was that most people younger than age 90 have functionally good health. We could identify two transitional periods: 1) 81- 84, when prevalence of relatively good functional health decreased and prevalence of multimorbidity, lower cognitive functioning, and I-ADL disabilities increased and 2) 84-87, when higher prevalence of severe cognitive and physical impairment gradually led to disability in P-ADL. The first period seems to represent the passage from the third to the fourth age, and the second, the beginning of the fourth age. This means that the need for medical care increased from age 70 to 90, but the need for social assistance, including institutionalization, became prevalent only at very advanced ages.

Santoni G, Angleman S, Welmer AK, Mangialasche F, Marengoni A, Fratiglioni L. Age-related variation in health status after age 60. PloS one. 2015;10(3):e0120077