Disability and Aging Demographics

The end of last year I completed a project for the State offices for the aging and children and family services reviewing literature on disability trends and forecasts. It was a new area for me. While I’ve spent nearly a lifetime working with census and other demographic data and population trends, I hadn’t focused on issues related to disability. Boy was I missing a big topic!

I learned a lot about how disability is defined, how there are a multitude of different surveys that gather data on disability, and how many of those surveys used different classification schemes and questions. I learned that it’s difficult to compare trends across time and surveys and that shrinking budgets have impacted the quality of data. A big reminder that the data collection instrument and purpose really impact what meaningful conclusions can be derived.

I learned that when you couple disability trends with an aging population and rising incidence of chronic disease, you see a tidal wave approaching in terms of the needs for health care providers and the costs of that care. Ever think about the long-term consequences of rising rates of obesity and diabetes? Boy, are we going to find out as these folks age.

I’ll be looking at these data in more detail. Part of my work with the aging and children and family services agencies is to compile census data from the American Community Survey for New York State and counties. I’ll continue to post about what I find and the importance of this new (at least for me) area of interest. In the meantime, check out this post from Daily Yonder on the geography of disability. The data reported there comes from the Social Security administration and I’m interested to see how that tracks with data from the Census Bureau.

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