Aging with longstanding physical disability: A focus group study

TitleAging with longstanding physical disability: A focus group study
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsYorkston KM, Verrall A, Johnson KL
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society

Background: People aging with longstanding physical disability must deal with competing trajectories. Physical function is declining while confidence in the ability to cope is improving. Social support is likely to decline with retirement & aging significant others while medical management is improving thus increasing life expectancy. Methods: Four focus groups were conducted soliciting advice for health care teams seeing patients aging with a longstanding disability. Participants included people with spinal cord injury (N = 7), postpolio syndrome (N = 7), multiple sclerosis (N = 5), and muscular dystrophy (N = 4). All were at least 45 years of age and living with their disability for at least 8 years. Focus groups transcripts were reviewed and coded using Atlas.ti and a framework of themes was developed. Results: Four major themes emerged which are described in Table 1. Conclusions: Health care providers should acknowledge the skills that people with longstanding disability bring to the task of prioritizing their goals and managing their condition. Healthcare providers can assist them in developing individualized self-management interventions that help to maintain function and independence as they age.