What Disability and Long-Term-Care Risks Do Retirees Face?

    • March 21, 2009

In the period 2002 through 2007 researchers at the Urban Institute and the Center for Home Care Policy and Research at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) used two national surveys, the 1993 National Mortality Followback Survey and the National Long Term Care Survey, to estimate the risk, timing and amount of lifetime disability and long-term care—including both nursing home and at-home care—for retirees in the United States.

Key Findings

  • People turning 65 face, on average, four years of chronic physical or cognitive impairment during their remaining lives, nearly two years of long-term care at home and one year in a nursing home.
  • On average, slightly more than half of long-term care received by retirees occurs at disability levels below commonly used functional thresholds for receipt of insurance benefits.
  • Extreme obesity has major impacts on mortality and disability among women: at age 65, women who have been very obese over most of their adult lives can expect:
    • To die 3.1 years sooner than other women.
    • To be disabled more than a year longer than the average for all women.