Functional, Sensorial, Mobility and Communication Difficulties in the Portuguese Oldest Old (80+)

Daniela Brandão, Óscar Ribeiro, Constança Paúl


Introduction: The ageing of populations is evident in most developed countries, and the oldest old group is one of the segments with the fastest growing. The aim of this paper is to examine sociodemographic and health related characteristics of the portuguese oldest old, using a census-based approach.
Material and Methods: A descriptive study considering all residents aged 80 years and older at the time of the 2011 Census (n = 532 219) was conducted. Information on sociodemographic characteristics, sensory functions (seeing, hearing), functional status (walking/climbing stairs, bathing/dressing alone), cognition (memory/concentration), and communication (understanding others/being understood) as assessed by the Portuguese census official questionnaires were analyzed.
Results: Findings revealed that most of the oldest old are women (64.5%), widowed (53.9%), illiterate (46.1%) and live in private households (88.8%). Walking/climbing stairs (57.1%), vision (39.1%) and hearing (35.1%) were the dimensions where the oldest old presented major constrains. In parallel, understanding others/being understood (25.9%) and memory/concentration (34.4%) were the dimensions with lower percentages of difficulties. Significant differences were found between octogenarians/nonagenarians and centenarians for vision, walk/climb stairs, and bathing/dressing alone, with centenarians presenting a higher percentage of difficulties.
Discussion: Portuguese oldest old showed significant difficulties in activities of daily living, nevertheless cognitive and communication capacities seem to be commonly maintained. Taken together, these findings suggest the need for functional assistance, which can be ultimately managed by the older person him/herself.
Conclusion: Based on the observed differences between centenarians and younger oldest old, specific interventions should be equated to better respond to their potentially distinctive needs.


Activities of Daily Living; Aged, 80 and over; Censuses; Demography; Disability Evaluation; Frail Elderly; Portugal

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