Trends in Late-Life Disability in Taiwan, 1989-2007
The Roles of Education, Environment, and Technology
Published in: Population Studies, v. 65, no. 3, Nov. 2011, p. 289-304
This analysis offers the first strong evidence of trends in late-life disability in an emerging economy. For the population of Taiwan aged 65 and older, consistent measures of limitations in seeing, hearing, physical functions, instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), and activities of daily living (ADLs) were available for three to six survey waves, depending on the outcome, from 1989 to 2007. Limitations in seeing, hearing, and IADLs declined substantially, but trends were mixed for physical functions and flat for ADLs. The remarkable reduction in difficulty telephoning, an IADL, may reflect changes in telecommunications infrastructure and highlights the roles of environment and technology in disability outcomes. Trends for urban residents were more advantageous than those for rural residents for seeing and hearing, but less so for physical functions and IADLs. Were it not for the substantial increase in educational attainment, trends in all outcomes would have been less.