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Medical and Everyday Assistive Device Use among Older Adults with Arthritis*

  • Deborah Sutton (a1), Monique A.M. Gignac (a2) and Cheryl Cott (a2)


This research compared older adults' use of medical assistive devices (ADs) with their use of everyday ADs as a means of managing chronic physical disability. The study also examined whether predisposing, need, and enabling factors were associated with device use in three domains of activity: personal care / in-home mobility, household activities, and community mobility. Participants were 248 adults, aged 55 years and older, with a wide range of disability levels as a result of osteoarthritis. All participants were administered an in-depth, structured questionnaire, as part of a larger study examining older adults' independence and adaptation to chronic physical illness. The results revealed that respondents actively adapted to their disabilities and used a wide range of medical and everyday devices, with everyday devices being reported more than twice as often as medical ADs and the fewest devices overall being reported for community mobility. In general, medical devices were used when subjective and objective need for ADs was considerable. Everyday devices were reported earlier in the trajectory of the disease, at mild and moderate disability levels, and were associated with a broader pattern of adaptation that included planning to avoid problems, exercise, and pacing activities.

Cette recherche offre une comparaison entre l'emploi des aides technologiques fonctionnelles médicales et l'emploi des aides fonctionnelles quotidiennes par les personnes âgées en matière de gérance d'incapacité physique chronique. De plus, l'étude examine si les facteurs de prédisposition, de besoin et d'habilitation sont associés à l'usage des aides propres à trois domaines d'activités : les soins personnels et la mobilité à domicile, les activités ménagères et la mobilité communautaire. Ont participé, quelques 248 individus âgés de 55 ans et plus et souffrant d'une vaste gamme de niveaux d'incapacités causées par l'arthrite par usure. Chacun a reçu un questionnaire exhaustif et structuré faisant partie d'une étude élargie traitant le sujet de l'autonomie et l'adaptation à la maladie physique chronique des personnes âgées. Les résultats suggèrent qu'effectivement, il y a une adaptation de la part des répondants face à leur incapacité. De plus, ceux-ci utilisent une gamme d'aides médicales et quotidiennes. Dans l'ensemble, la mobilité communautaire avait le moins de cas de recours aux aides médicales et quotidiennes. En général, il y a recours aux aides fonctionnelles médicales lorsque le besoin subjectif et objectif de ces aides est considérable. Le recours aux aides quotidiennes est signalé surtout au début de la trajectoire de la maladie, lorsque les niveaux d'incapacité sont bénins ou moyens et associés à un profil plus étendu. Ce profil comprend la planification de contournement de problèmes, l'exercice et les activités d'entraînement.


Corresponding author

Requests for offprints should be sent to: / Les demandes de tirés-a-part doivent être adressées à : Monique A.M. Gignac, Ph.D., The Division of Outcomes & Population Health, Toronto Western Research Institute, Main Pavilion 10–328, 399 Bathurst St, Toronto, ONM5T 2S8. (


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This research was supported by grant #410970184 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and by an Ontario Ministry of Health, Health System-Linked grant to the Arthritis Community Research and Evaluation Unit (ACREU).



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