contact us | site map | PHMC Home
Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

Limitations in Daily Physical Functioning are a Severe Problem for Many Older Adults in the Region
Saturday. June 1, 2002

Southeastern Pennsylvania, PA, June 2002 — Data from widespread survey of the region’s health shows that limitations in daily physical functioning are a severe problem for many older adults in the region. A sizable percentage of older adults in the region need assistance with at least one Activity of Daily Living (ADL)  or personal self-care activity. An even larger percentage needs assistance with at least one Instrumental Activity of Daily Living (IADL) . The findings from the survey show that functional limitations are not evenly distributed among various sub-populations. Older adults that are black, poor, or 75 years of age and older are more likely to be functionally limited than are older adults who are white, non-poor, or less than 75 years of age.
The survey, conducted in June of 2000 by the nonprofit Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC), shows that:

  • Many older adults have ADL limitations that can severely impact their mobility and health. Slightly more than one out of ten Southeastern Pennsylvania older adults have one or more ADL limitations (10.2%), representing an estimated 54,100 individuals.
  • The percentage of older adults who have one or more ADL limitations has remained relatively stable from 10.9% in 1994 to 10.2% in 2000.
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as are men to have an ADL limitation (12.7% and 6.6%, respectively).
  • Poor older adults are also twice as likely to have an ADL limitation compared to the non-poor (16.2% and 7.9%, respectively).

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) are often considered less severe compared to ADLs but are comprised of many activities that impact upon one’s quality of life on a daily basis.  IADLs include using the telephone, getting transportation to places out of walking distance, shopping, preparing meals, housework, taking medications, and handling money. 

  • An estimated 142,500 older adults in the region have one or more IADL limitations.
  • The percentage of Southeastern Pennsylvania older adults who have one or more IADL limitations has increased from 25.3 % in 1994 to 27.1% in 2000.
  • Black older adults (38%) and older adults who are poor (38.5%) are more likely to have IADL limitations compared to white older adults (25.3%) and the non-poor (22.6%).

The inability of older adults with ADL or IADL limitations to perform certain activities independently may necessitate the use of formal home services. This is especially true for older adults who are socially isolated and do not have the option of informal care from friends and family. 

  • Six percent of older adults (31,700 persons) received formal home care services  in the past year to assist them with their limitations.
  • The likelihood of receiving formal home services care increases with one’s age. Older adults 75 years of age and older are more likely to have received formal care (7.6%) than those 65-74 years of age (4.6%).

The data shown above are from PHMC’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.  This is a major telephone survey of more than 10,000 households in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. The next Household Health Survey will be conducted in July – September of 2002.

PHMC is a nonprofit, public health organization committed to improving the health of the community through outreach, education, research, planning, technical assistance, and direct services. PHMC is a United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania member agency. Additional Household Health Survey findings are located online at