Purpose: Many older adults in the USA live in public housing facilities and have characteristics that may place them at risk for cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment has been largely unexamined in this socioeconomically disadvantaged population, however. We therefore aim to characterize its prevalence and correlates, which may help determine which residents could benefit from additional assistance to optimize their ability to function independently.
Methods: We interviewed 190 English-speaking public housing residents aged 60 years and older in Rochester, a city in Western New York, to assess socio-demographics, mental health, physical health and disability, coping strategies and social support, and service utilization. The Mini-Cog dementia screen evaluated cognitive status.
Results: Twenty-seven percent of residents screened positive for cognitive impairment. In bivariate analyses, older age, less education, greater duration of residence, worse health, less reliance on adaptive coping strategies, and greater utilization of health services were associated with cognitive impairment; age and worse health remained correlated with cognitive impairment in multivariable analyses. Anxiety, depression, and history of substance misuse were not associated with cognitive impairment.
Conclusions: The high level of cognitive impairment in public housing could threaten residents' continued ability to live independently. Further examination is needed on how such threats to their independence are best accommodated so that public housing residents at risk for needing higher levels of care can successfully age in place.