How Does Your Brain Score? Take the Staying Sharp Brain Health Assessment


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More


Military and Veterans Discount



AARP Games - Play Now!


Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.


Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.



Heart Disease


Beyond 50.03: A Report to the Nation on Independent Living and Disability: Executive Summary

What Do We Mean by Disability?

Disability has multiple meanings that cannot be captured in one definition. There are huge differences in the causes of disabilities, the age of onset and pace of progression, and the degree of activity limitations that may result. Disabilities may occur at birth suddenly, as a result of an accident, or slowly, as a chronic condition progresses. They may be sensory, cognitive, physical, or emotional. They may be visible or hidden.

Researchers find varying rates of disability based on the definition of disability they use as well as other factors. But despite the complexity of defining and measuring the number of people with various types of disabilities, some points are universal. Disability usually involves difficulty conducting daily activities, such as bathing, cooking, or shopping, or getting around our communities. And almost all of us need some help with these activities at some point in our adult lives, especially as we grow older.

What do we mean by "activities of daily living"? Surveys typically distinguish between two types of disabilities: limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs) and limitations in instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). ADLs refer to basic personal activities required for daily life and typically include bathing, dressing, getting in or out of bed or a chair, using the toilet, eating, and getting around inside the home. IADLs refer to activities related to being able to manage one's affairs independently and typically include grocery shopping, housework, preparing meals, managing money, using the telephone, taking medications, and getting around outside the home.


Does This Report Include Long-Term Care?

Yes, although the term "long-term care" is used only occasionally. Long-term care has been defined by gerontologists Rosalie Kane and Robert Kane as "personal care and assistance that an individual might receive on a long-term basis because of a disability or chronic illness that limits his or her ability to function."1 It includes not only nursing homes, but also the services received while living in many other settings, including private homes and apartments.

"Long-term supportive services" is the preferred term among many people with disabilities because the term "care" may imply dependence and convey paternalism

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points