16 Million Seniors Have At Least One Disability

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, commissioned and funded by the National Institute on Aging, finds that 16 million U.S. adults age 65 and older report having at least one disability. It’s actually the first Census report to look at disabilities specifically among older adults, and breaking down disability status data based on age, sex, marital status, poverty status and education.

Based on data from the American Community Survey, the report encompasses six types of disability, including: Older adults with disablity

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Cognition
  • Walking
  • Self-care
  • Independent living

The most common disability, according to the report, is difficulty walking or climbing stairs. About two-thirds of Americans age 65 and older who report having at least one disability reported this particular problem.

Another interesting finding is that the prevalence of disabilities in older adults varies geographically. With data broken down by county, the report finds that higher rates of disability are present in the Appalachian region, the lower Mississippi Valley and parts of the upper South.

Perhaps not so surprising: Older age distributions also have a higher rate of disability. Those seniors 85 and older have the highest prevalence of disability, representing about 13.6 percent of the total older adult population, but accounting for 25.4 percent of the total number of older adults reporting at least one disability.

The full report includes a number of maps and charts demonstrating various data sets and distributions. For example, one map illustrates the percentage of people living alone in poverty with a disability, while others break down the data by selected characteristics, household population, education, marital status, and several combinations of these metrics. The full report is available for download from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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