Operationalizing the Disablement Process for Research on Older Adults: A Critical Review

Natasha E. Lane, Cynthia M. Boyd, Thérèse A. Stukel, Walter P. Wodchis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-care disability is difficulty with or dependence on others to perform activities of daily living, such as eating and dressing. Disablement is worsening self-care disability measured over time. The disablement process model (DPM) is often used to conceptualize gerontology research on self-care disability and disablement; however, no summary of variables that align with person-level DPM constructs exists. This review summarizes the results of 88 studies to identify the nature and role of variables associated with disability and disablement in older adults according to the person-level constructs (e.g., demographic characteristics, chronic pathologies) in the DPM. It also examines the evidence for cross-sectional applications of the DPM and identifies common limitations in extant literature to address in future research. Researchers can apply these results to guide theory-driven disability and disablement research using routinely collected health data from older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-613
Number of pages14
JournalCanadian Journal on Aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • activities of daily living
  • ageing
  • chronic disease
  • community/nursing home
  • functional limitations
  • self-care disability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Gerontology
  • Community and Home Care
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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