Most of us understand that women still live longer than men do. This longer life, however, is increasing the risk of disability according to a new study.
Even though women live longer, the study shows they will suffer from disabilities much earlier than men. The study concluded that women may live longer, but men have more active years before them.
Researchers compared data from studies of people 65 and older and enrolled in Medicare that were done in 1982, 2004 and 2011. They looked at if a disability kept them carrying out normal activities of daily living and followed the participants in the years following the survey to determine their mortality rate.
"Despite the fact that women live more years than men, they can expect fewer active years," said Vicki A. Freedman, a research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, and lead author of the study, which was published on last week in the American Journal of Public Health.
Part of the reason that older women are more likely to have disabilities is that "women are just living longer regardless of the disability," said Jen'nan Read, an associate professor of sociology and global health at Duke University who was not involved in the study.
No one really seems to understand why women appear more able to keep on ticking through physical adversity, although a number of gender differences could be at play, Read said.
"As the population is aging, and women are more likely to live longer, it has huge implications for [women's] quality of life. They live longer and have poor quality of life years and also tend to be less likely to have the social and economic resources to deal with these problems," Read said.
"We need systems in place, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes and home help programs, but we are nowhere near the level we would need as this population of baby boomers explodes in the next 10, 20, 30 years," Read said.
Health insurance and Medicare pay little for the costs of extended care dealing with activities of daily living or supervision due to cognitive issues.
Many experts recommend Long Term Care Insurance to address these costs. As medical science extended lifespan it also increased the risk of needing extended care which can have emotional as well as financial and physical impact on families.
“People mistakenly associate Long Term Care with nursing home care, but most care actually takes place at home or in the community," said Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance (AALTCI). The AALTCI is a national consumer advocacy and education group.
"Either way, the costs are significant as is the toll on loved ones who typically are called on to provide care. Long Term Care Insurance can be an affordable option but many wait too long,” he said.
The US Department of Health and Human Services says if a person reaches the age of 65 they will have a 70% chance of needing some type of Long Term Health Care service before they die.
As always, people are encouraged to seek regular medical check-ups, maintain healthy lifestyles, exercise and plan for the financial costs of aging prior to retirement.