PREDICTORS OF FUNCTIONAL DISABILITY IN OLDER ADULTS: THE ROLE OF AGE, GENDER, PHYSICAL HEALTH AND COPING
 
Fiksenbaum, L., Eaton, J. and Greenglass, E.R., York University, Canada
 
Older adults by virtue of their age and its concomitant psychological and physiological changes are more likely to encounter certain stressful events and problems than younger individuals. Many of the problems experienced by the elderly are related to functional limitations. Many older adults require some assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and grooming, shopping, doing housework, climbing stairs or preparing meals. Functional abilities are central to the health and quality of life of older adults, and are among the most frequently studied topics by a wide range of professionals including psychologists and gerontologists. This study investigates the importance of physical and psychological measures in predicting the functional disability of older adults. Data were collected from 224 adults, 62 years of age and older, using a confidential and anonymous questionnaire. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to examine the role of demographic variables, physical health and coping in predicting functional disability. The first step included age and gender. Physical health was entered in the second step and coping was entered in the third step. Four subscales of the Proactive Coping Inventory were entered in separate regressions: proactive coping, preventive coping, strategic planning and reflective coping. Results indicated that functional disability increased substantially with increasing age and poorer physical health, whereas those who employed proactive, preventive or reflective coping or strategic planning were more able to carry out activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, shopping and using the telephone. Implications for understanding the role of coping in enhancing functional ability in older adults will be discussed.