How Your Risk of Disability Increases During Retirement

Senior woman in a wheelchair
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As we age and our bodies wear out, the risk of disability rises dramatically. This is probably no surprise, but a new report from J.P. Morgan Asset Management underscores just how significant the risk is later in life.

In fact, by the time you are in your 90s, you have little more than a 50-50 chance of avoiding disability, which is defined as needing assistance with two or more activities of daily living or having severe cognitive impairment.

Using data prepared by the Urban Institute and reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, J.P. Morgan illustrates how the risk grows in the latter stages of life.

The danger really begins to rise significantly once you enter your 70s. It nearly doubles between the ages of 74 and 79 and then nearly doubles again between the ages of 80 and 84.

According to the data, the percentage of people with a disability in their senior years is:

  • Ages 65-69: 5%
  • 70-74: 7%
  • 75-79: 12%
  • 80-84: 22%
  • 85-89: 30%
  • 90+: 48%

Although there is no way to eliminate the chance that you will become disabled in old age, you can reduce the risk by becoming more active. The National Institute on Aging says too many older people spend too much time sitting.

The NIA notes that one study found that people who engaged in a structured physical activity program that included walking, strength training, increasing flexibility and balance training — as well as other components, such as learning more about the value of health screenings and proper nutrition — had an 18% lower risk of being diagnosed with a major mobility disability.

For more on the health risks you face when aging — and how to prevent such problems — read:

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