Assistive Devices in Context: Cross-Sectional Association Between Challenges in the Home Environment and Use of Assistive Devices for Mobility.

Seplaki CL, Agree EM, Weiss CO, Szanton SL, Bandeen-Roche K, Fried LP. Gerontologist. 2013 Apr 24. [Epub ahead of print]

Source:*Address correspondence to Christopher L. Seplaki, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, 265 Crittenden Blvd, CU 420644, Rochester, NY 14642, E-mail:



A primary goal for aging policy is to optimize independence in later life. We estimate the cross-sectional association between physical and social challenge in the home environment and use of assistive devices (AD) for mobility in the home, controlling for lower extremity physical performance (short physical performance battery [SPPB]) and other factors.


Data are from the Women’s Health and Aging Study I, a prospective study of the factors related to physical disability in a sample of moderately to severely disabled older women. We describe these associations in the baseline sample overall and also within subsets who do and do not have both a baseline and a 3-year follow-up observation.


On average, physical challenge in the home environment is inversely associated with level of AD use (p < .05) in the overall sample, independent of SPPB, living alone, and other factors. We do not find a significant (p < .05) association between social challenge and the level of AD use in the overall sample. Findings by follow-up responder status were similar (with minor variability).


Future cohorts who are better educated and more receptive to technology may confront challenges in the home environment that limit their ability to age in place. Our findings suggest that the physical challenges of the home are significantly related to AD use. Future analyses that explore the mechanisms of the home environment as a source of challenges to independent functioning could help in the design of future interventions for these cohorts as they age