An aging Canadian population highlights the need to examine the prevalence and causes of disabilities in seniors in order to be able to meet their health care needs. This report represents a step in that direction by examining disabilities among Canadian seniors using the 1986 and 1991 Health and Activity Limitation Surveys (HALS), two nation-wide surveys assessing the prevalence and impact of disabilities in the Canadian population. From these two surveys, disabilities among noninstitutionalized seniors, 65 years of age and older, were examined.
Findings revealed that over 40% of seniors had at least one disability that impacted on activities of daily living and that one-quarter of disabled seniors were severely disabled. Risk factors that were associated with having a disability included marital status, language spoken, total household income, tenure of dwelling, number of people living in the household, and region of the country. Mobility and agility disabilities were the most common types of disabilities among seniors, with approximately 80% of disabled seniors having at least one mobility or agility disability. Further, mobility and agility disabilities tended to coexist, with approximately 70% of all seniors who had a mobility disability also having an agility disability. Arthritis/rheumatism was the medical condition that most often caused mobility and agility disabilities, followed by cerebrovascular disease, other forms of heart disease, and fractures/bone breaks. Women were more likely than men to have mobility and agility disabilities, with other risk factors associated with having mobility and agility disabilities similar to those for having any disability.
The findings of this report indicate that many Canadian seniors suffer from disabilities, particularly disabilities that affect their mobility and agility. Therefore, to have a substantial effect on reducing the impact of disabilities on Canadian seniors, efforts should be directed toward finding effective medical interventions that reduce or control the most common conditions which result in mobility and agility disabilities. Further, finding means to reduce the negative impact that mobility and agility type impairments have on everyday living would serve to help disabled seniors.