Current findings on gender and age differences in health trajectories in later life are equivocal and largely based upon data derived from Western developed nations. This study examines gender and age variations in the trajectory of functional status among older adults in Taiwan, a non-Western newly industrialized society. Data came from a sample of some 3500 Taiwanese aged 60 and over, initially surveyed in 1989 and subsequently followed in 1993, 1996, 1999, and 2003. Hierarchical linear models with time-varying covariates were employed in depicting the dynamics of functional status across gender and age. Women and the old-old experienced higher levels of disability and rates of increase than their male and young-old counterparts. Moreover, older women bore a disproportionately larger burden of disability. There are therefore significant gender and age variations in the trajectory of functional status among older Taiwanese. These findings provide evidence for the generalizability of prior observations to a non-Western society.
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