Changes in Life-Space Mobility with Loss of Relatives and Friends among Older Adults: Results from the UAB Study of Aging

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The Gerontologist


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Increasing age brings greater risk of death of friends and family (hereafter referred to as loss) potentially impacting individuals' life-space mobility (LSM) trajectory. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Using the UAB Study of Aging, we examined differences in LSM trajectories of 1000 community-dwelling older Alabamians (65+years) with and without loss over 8.5 years. We measured LSM using UAB's Life-Space Assessment (LSA), a validated instrument assessing movement through zones ranging from their bedroom to out of town. We assessed loss every 6 months using a standard bereavement questionnaire capturing spousal, other relative, or friend loss. We used piecewise linear mixed effects models to compare LSA trajectories. RESULTS: At baseline, those who later experienced loss, compared to those did not were younger, more likely to be female, and overall in better health. Those without loss had a baseline mean LSA score of 49.5 and a decline of 0.08 points per year (p < 0.001). Those with loss had a baseline LSA score of 60 and decline by 1.0 point per year before loss (p < 0.001), accelerating to 1.8 points per year after loss (p < 0.001). DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Those with loss do not experience acute decline post loss but do have an acceleration of the pre-existing decline. While additional research may explain the impact of loss on LSM; this finding suggests that more interventions such as social, mental, or healthcare services, may be needed for those who experience loss. Specifically, bereaved individuals may benefit from.

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