Aging and spinal cord injury: medical, functional, and psychosocial changes.

Fifty years ago, people who had a spinal cord injury had very limited life expectancies. Today, these individuals can expect to live into their 60s, 70s, and beyond. Advances in rehabilitation, technology, surgery, and medicines have been chiefly responsible for this change. Recent research in both Europe and the United States now indicates that as these people age, they often develop medical and functional problems that are not as common in their nondisabled peers until much later in life. The importance of these “premature” age-related problems has led the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to fund the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Aging With a Spinal Cord Injury at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, California. This article summarizes some of the important findings from this RRTC and from other sources.