CHICAGO (Reuters) - America’s baby boomers are likely to have far more trouble moving around as they get older than their parents had, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.
They studied disabilities among several age groups and found that people in their 60s were less able to do daily activities like walking up a flight of stairs or using a vacuum cleaner than people in their 70s.
Rising rates of obesity — two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight — may be to blame.
“If you have more weight, you wear out your joints faster and report more disability,” said Dr. Arun Karlamangla of the University of California at Los Angeles, whose study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.
“Clearly there is an obesity epidemic, and that is why you are seeing a worsening,” he said in a telephone interview.
The researchers looked at data from a national study of nutrition and health to see how disabilities have changed for adults in their 60s, 70s and 80s.
For disability they looked at basic activities like getting out of bed, going to the toilet and doing household chores. For mobility they looked at walking in the community or climbing stairs and they examined functional limitations like being able to crouch or kneel or bend over to pick something up.
They found that between 1988 and 1999, disability among those in their 60s increased by 40 and 70 percent in each area studied except functional limitations. The increases were worse among people who were obese.
They saw no significant changes among people 70 to 79, while the 80-plus group had fewer functional limitations.
Karlamangla said people who have trouble doing household chores may not be an immediate drain on health care, but they do wind up needing nursing home care much faster than others.
“If this trend continues unchecked, it will put increasing pressure on our society to take care of these disabled individuals,” UCLA’s Teresa Seeman, who worked on the study, said in a statement.