Longer Lives, Sicker Lives? Increased Longevity and Extended Disability among Mexican-Origin Elders

Jacqueline L. Angel, University of Texas at Austin
Ronald Angel, University of Texas at Austin
Terrence D. Hill, Florida State University

This study employs growth mixture models and life table techniques to analyze patterns of decline in functional capacity measured by objective Performance Oriented Mobility Assessments in a cohort of 3,050 Mexican-origin elders who were initially interviewed in 1993-1994 and followed up at six points over the subsequent seventeen years. Results reveal three general patterns of decline (1) high initial functioning followed by stability or moderate decline (48%); (2) moderate initial functioning followed by significant decline (37.5%) and (3) poor initial functioning followed by continuing poor functioning or slight improvement (14.5%). On average, members of this cohort spent more than half of the period after sixty-five and before death or censoring with significant limitations in physical functioning. Significant gender and nativity differences emerge. Implications of an increased period of morbidity associated with increases in life expectancy for the health and economic well-being of older Mexican Americans are discussed.

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Presented in Session 26: Health and Disability in Later Life