older, Afro-Americans were 1.3 times as likely as white persons to be unable to do certain physical activities and 1.5 times as likely as white persons to be unable to perform one or more ADLs. Similar conclusions may be drawn for other ethnic (e.g., Hispanic) groups, although additional research is needed to further identify the social and health factors that contribute to these ethnic differences (45,46,55).
In the last 25 years, the proportion of noninstitutionalized old women and men unable to do one or more ADLs or IADLs has declined, the decline being particularly marked in women. This trend may be viewed as evidence of progressively healthier (and even successful) aging relative to previous decades (5658). Unlike the proportion of noninstitutionalized elderly, the overall (including persons in nursing homes and other similar institutions) proportion of elderly persons unable to perform ADLs continues to increase with the lengthening of the life span, even though the level remains quite low (33).
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For centuries, ever since the legendary Ponce de Leon went searching for the elusive Fountain of Youth, people have been looking for ways to slow down the aging process. Medical science has made great strides in keeping people alive longer by preventing and curing disease, and helping people to live healthier lives. Average life expectancy keeps increasing, and most of us can look forward to the chance to live much longer lives than our ancestors.