Long-term predictors of high levels of physical functioning were examined in a representative sample of Alameda County, California residents followed from 1965 through 1984. The cohort investigated in this study was born between 1895 and 1919, with survivors being age 65 to 89 at the time of follow-up. A scale of physical functioning was developed from a comprehensive set of questionnaire items which assessed the full spectrum of physical functioning. Those scoring in the top 20 percent, defined as healthy aging, were compared to the remainder of the cohort, including those who died and those with lower levels of functioning at follow-up. After adjustment for age and functional status at baseline, the following variables were predictive of high functioning at follow-up 19 years later: race (those not Black), higher family income level, absence of hypertension, absence of arthritis, absence of back pain, being a non-smoker, having normal weight, and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol. Sex did not predict high function because of the counterbalancing effects of higher survival in females but greater likelihood of high functioning among surviving males
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