November 20, 2019

Social participation among adults with long-term physical disability studied

Role of socioenvironmental factors noted in Journal of Aging and Health paper

While the average age of people living with disability-associated conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis is steadily increasing, little is known about the environmental factors that could help (or hinder) individuals with disability to fully participate in society as they age.

Philippa Clarke, Ph.D., M.Sc.

A paper authored by Philippa Clarke, Ph.D., M.Sc. and other University of Michigan researchers entitled "Social Participation With Long-Term Disability: The Role of Socioenvironmental Factors" was published by the Journal of Aging and Health, in a special issue on the topic of aging and long-term disability.

U-M Center for Disability Health and Wellness members Michelle A. Meade, Ph.D. and Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D. were co-authors, as well as Erica Twardzik, Ph.D. and Denise Tate, Ph.D., A.P.B.B., F.A.C.R.M

"This study focused on the role of environmental barriers and facilitators for promoting social participation among adults aging with physical disabilities," Clarke said. "We found that barriers in the outdoor built environment and inaccessible community stores were negatively associated with social participation. Individuals who reported inaccessible sidewalks, paths, or streets in their community reported significantly lower participation with family, friends, and work activities."

Data was collected from more than 1,300 adults age 65 and over with a physical disability.

"Other unspecified barriers in the outdoor environment were also associated with reduced participation, net of health and physical function," Clarke said. "Similarly, individuals who reported poor building access at community stores reported significantly lower participation, while difficulty accessing stores for other reasons was also associated with reduced participation in social roles and activities."

Article Citation

Clarke P, Twardzik E, Meade MA, Peterson MD, Tate D. Social Participation Among Adults Aging With Long-Term Physical Disability: The Role of Socioenvironmental Factors. Journal of Aging and Health. 2019;31(10_suppl). doi: 10.1177/0898264318822238