Objective: The study objective was to identify factors associated with life space to examine the service needs of the elderly. Cross-sectional study.
Sample: 2,409 community-living elderly in a rural town in Japan.
Measurements: Daily activity level was used as a proxy for life space. Respondents were asked about their daily activity, health status, and psychosocial factors in a self-administered questionnaire. Factors associated with life space were identified using general linear models. Relative associations of each factor with life space were tested using stepwise multiple regression procedure.
Results: Elderly in a smaller life space were significantly older, had more illnesses, worse activities of daily living (ADL), and poor self-rated health. Poor psychological well-being and fewer social relations were also associated with a smaller life space. Age and ADL difficulty accounted for 51.7% of life space variations. In addition, more elderly with ADL difficulty expressed unmet needs for transportation and socializing opportunities.
Conclusions: Life space was related not only to age or health status but also to environmental or psychosocial factors. Appropriate services for a vulnerable population may have a positive effect on elderly health. Moreover, elderly life space may be used as an indicator to identify people at risk in order to provide more effective community-based programs for the elderly.