OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of independence and ease of performance in activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) at ages 70 and 77 in a well-characterized cohort and to measure the effect of regular exercise at age 70 on independence and ease of performance 7 years later. DESIGN: Two stages of a longitudinal study of an age-homogeneous cohort employing extensive interview data, physical examination, and clinical laboratory investigation. SETTING: Home-based interviews and examinations in Jerusalem. PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred eighty-seven west Jerusalem residents, born between June 1920 and May 1921, who participated fully in two phases of an ongoing longitudinal cohort study. Subjects were culled from a larger study population of 605 in the first phase and 1,021 in the second phase. MEASUREMENTS: Two-stage comprehensive demographic, social, and economic profile; medical history and examination; cognitive and affective assessment; and clinical laboratory studies performed in 1990-91 and 1997-98. The investigation questionnaire included details of ADL and IADLs and voluntary exercise. RESULTS: Most aspects of personal and social life did not change from age 70 to 77. Independence in ADLs remained high, as did self-reliance in IADLs for women. A more-sensitive marker of diminished function was reported ease in performance, which declined for use of the toilet, dressing, and all spheres of IADLs. For nearly every task, subjects who reported exercising 4 days a week at age 70 were more likely to report ease in performance at age 77. In a logistic regression accounting for the presence of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, chronic back pain, loneliness, and performance with ease at age 70 and deterioration in self-assessed health from age 70 to 77, ease of performance in at least three of four ADL tasks was independently related to exercise at age 70 for women (odds ratio (OR) = 8.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.0-36.2) and for men (OR = 4.3, 95% CI = 1.1-17.1). Ease of independent function in at least four of five IADL tasks also correlated to exercise for men in this regression (OR = 3.7, 95% CI = 1.1-12.2) but not for women (OR = 2.0, 95% CI = 0.6-6.3). Ease in shopping, alternatively, correlated with physical activity for men (OR = 4.3, 95% CI = 1.5-12.0) and women (OR = 2.6, 95% CI = 1.1-6.1). CONCLUSIONS: Subjects remained active and independent at age 77. Reported ease of performance declined and revealed changes in function. Exercise at least four times a week at age 70 preserved ease of performance at age 77 independent of the influence of specific disease or general self-assessed health.
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