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Understanding the Role of the Built Environment for Mobility in Older Adults

a PSC Research Project

Investigator:   Philippa J. Clarke

Mobility, defined as an individual’s ability to move about effectively in his or her surroundings, is fundamental to independence and quality of life. Mobility disability is highly prevalent in older adult populations, with negative consequences for independence and social connection. Recent models of disability draw attention to the role of environmental factors that can interact with an individual’s underlying impairments to affect mobility independence.

Using secondary analyses with data from the recently launched National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), this project furthers understanding of the dynamic nature of the disablement process. NHATS, a nationally representative study designed to support the investigation of disability trends and dynamics in later life, uses innovative measures of disability and function, captured both objectively through physical performance measures and subjectively through survey questions. 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, this project examines how characteristics in the built environment may have positive or negative affect on both mobility disability and activity participation 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 that allow older adults to age in place.

Funding Period: 08/15/2013 to 05/31/2015

Country of Focus: USA

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