Disability and Assistance in the U.S. and Singapore

Lois M. Verbrugge, University of Michigan
Kalyani K. Mehta, National University of Singapore
Maggie Wilkin, University of Michigan

Objectives. Prior US research shows that older persons with disabilities prefer equipment because it maintains self-sufficiency. Is this distinctive to the American setting? Methods. We conducted a pilot study in the U.S. and Singapore of older persons' attitudes about personal and equipment assistance, and definitions of "disability," "independence," "dependence," and "assistance." Interviews of 34 older Americans (ages 70+; assisted living residents) and 30 older Singaporeans (users of community-based elder services) were done. Results. The American data show that less-disabled people think of independence as "doing activities without help," whereas more-disabled persons have a complex view that separates help and independence. The two groups state similar criteria for a "person with disability" in U.S. society. We hope Singapore results are ready by PAA. Conclusions. The demographic indicator "dependency" does not match older persons' own perspective of "dependence." Sociologically, family norms about coresidence and assistance affect older persons' definitions of independence.

Presented in Session 142: New Measurement Methods in Studies of Health and Aging