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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 6: Women, disability and aging

6.2. How does the need for personal assistance differ by age and gender?

Overall, women are more likely than men to require personal assistance with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Activities of daily living, basic self-maintenance activities that are essential for daily functioning, include bathing, dressing, eating, getting around inside the house, using the toilet and getting out of a bed or chair. Instrumental activities of daily living include going outside the home, keeping track of money, preparing meals, doing light housework and using the telephone. According to the SIPP, women account for 62.4% of people needing assistance with one or more ADLs or IADLs (McNeil, 1997). Results from the NHIS, shown in the chart below, also demonstrate that the likelihood of needing personal assistance with IADLs or ADLs increases markedly with age. Less than two percent of women 44 years and under need personal assistance, compared to nearly one-third (30.5%) of women 75 years and older.

Older women are most likely to need assistance with basic daily activities.

Vertical bar chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 26 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 26: Percentage of people needing personal assistance with ADLs or IADLs, by age group and gender

Data Table for Figure 26

Source: LaPlante & Carlson (1996).

Surveys: NHIS, 1992

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