LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• What factors are important to include in a model of disability in late life?

• What is functional health?

• What causes functional limitations and disability in older adults?

B

rian is a 68-year-old former welder who retired 3 years ago. He and his wife, Dorothy, had planned to travel in their RV and see the country. But Brian’s arthritis has been getting worse lately, and he is having increasing difficulty getting around and doing basic daily tasks. Brian and Dorothy wonder what the future holds for them.

Brian and Dorothy are not alone. Many couples plan to travel or to do other activities after they retire, only to find health issues complicating the situation. As the focus on health has shifted over the past several decades to chronic disease, researchers have increasingly focused on how well people can function in their daily lives. In this section, we examine how functional health is determined and how disability occurs.