Objective: To characterize the influence of the residential neighborhood of older adults on the prevalence of disability.
Methods: We combined Census data on disability in older adults living in New York City with environmental information from a comprehensive geospatial database. We used factor analysis to derive dimensions of compositional and physical neighborhood characteristics and linear regression to model their association with levels of disability. Measures of neighborhood collective efficacy were added to these models to explore the impact of the social environment.
Results: Low neighborhood socioeconomic status, residential instability, living in areas with low proportions of foreign born and high proportions of Black residents, and negative street characteristics were associated with higher prevalence of both "physical" disability and "going outside the home" disability. High crime levels were additionally associated with physical disability, although this relationship disappeared when misdemeanor arrests were removed from the crime variable. Low levels of collective efficacy were associated with more going-outside-the-home disability, with racial/ethnic composition dropping out of this model to be replaced by an interaction term.
Conclusion: The urban environment may have a substantial impact on whether an older adult with a given level of functional impairment is able to age actively and remain independent.