2019 Volume 29 Issue 2 Pages 65-72
Background: We explored the distinct trajectories of functional decline among older adults in Japan, and evaluated whether the frequency of outings, an important indicator of social activity, predicts the identified trajectories.
Methods: We analyzed data on 2,364 adults aged 65 years or older from the Japan Aichi Gerontological Evaluation Study. Participants were initially independent and later developed functional disability during a 31-month follow-up period. We used the level of long-term care needs certified in the public health insurance system as a proxy of functional ability and linked the fully tracked data of changes in the care levels to the baseline data. A low frequency of outings was defined as leaving one’s home less than once per week at baseline. We applied a growth mixture model to identify trajectories in functional decline by sex and then examined the association between the frequency of outings and the identified trajectories using multinomial logistic regression analysis.
Results: Three distinct trajectories were identified: “slowly declining” (64.3% of men and 79.7% of women), “persistently disabled” (4.5% and 3.7%, respectively), and “rapidly declining” (31.3% and 16.6%, respectively). Men with fewer outings had 2.14 times greater odds (95% confidence interval, 1.03–4.41) of being persistently disabled. The association between outing frequency and functional decline trajectory was less clear statistically among women.
Conclusions: While the majority of older adults showed a slow functional decline, some showed persistent moderate disability. Providing more opportunities to go out or assistance in that regard may be important for preventing persistent disability, and such needs might be greater among men.