A review of a number of studies conducted on Medicare beneficiaries over the past 34 years found that the average 65-year-old woman can expect to spend 30 percent of her remaining life with a disability that prevents her from a fully active life.
Men, in contrast, live shorter lives, but only spend 19 percent of their Medicare years disabled. The study showed that male health and longevity has increased far more dramatically over the past three decades than that of women.
The average man who reaches age 65 can expect to live to be 84, a life expectancy increase of five years since 1982.
Female senior citizens’ life expectancy has only increased by three years during the same timeframe. That means a 65-year-old woman can still expect to outlive her male counterparts, but only by a year-and-a-half.
“Disability” is obviously a broad term, but for the purposes of the study, those who reported being unable to do one common daily task, such as dressing, cooking, shopping, driving, or bathing on their own, were classified as disabled. Those who were unable to do three such activities were classified as “severely disabled.”
Ten percent of elderly women are severely disabled, compared to 7 percent of men.
Why? For starters, the diseases that often kill men at a younger age are less likely to kill women, but they still affect them. And the impact is often a disability during their remaining years.
Another relevant fact is that older women are typically poorer than elderly men.
“Older women also have fewer economic resources than men on average so they may not be as able to accommodate their declines in functioning when they do occur,” Vicki Freedman, a University of Michigan professor who authored the study, told Reuters.