Home Safety, Accessibility, and Elderly Health: Evidence from Falls

37 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2013 Last revised: 26 May 2015

See all articles by Michael D. Eriksen

Michael D. Eriksen

University of Cincinnati - Department of Finance - Real Estate

Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley

Kent State University

Gary V. Engelhardt

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research; Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 2015

Abstract

This article presents estimates of the impact of home safety and accessibility features on the prevention of serious, non-fatal falls for elderly widowed individuals. As these features are not randomly assigned across homes, we develop an instrumental variable (IV) strategy that relies on the differential decline in the health and functional status of spouses to identify impacts. Specifically, we use the deceased spouse’s functional status when alive, as measured by limits to Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), as an IV for the presence of home safety and accessibility features for the surviving spouse in the years after widowhood, and then estimate the effect of these features on the likelihood of a serious fall for the widow using rich longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study. The presence of such features reduces the likelihood of a fall requiring medical treatment by 20 percentage points, a substantial effect. However, falls are not the type of health shock that is a main driver of housing tenure transitions among the elderly. Although somewhat speculative, cost–benefit estimates suggest that investments in home safety for the elderly may generate in the short run as much as a dollar-for-dollar reduction in medical expenditures.

Keywords: Health, Mobility, Falls

JEL Classification: H5, I1, R2

Suggested Citation

Eriksen, Michael D. and Greenhalgh-Stanley, Nadia and Engelhardt, Gary V., Home Safety, Accessibility, and Elderly Health: Evidence from Falls (May 2015). Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 87, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2344916 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2344916

Michael D. Eriksen (Contact Author)

University of Cincinnati - Department of Finance - Real Estate ( email )

College of Business Administration
Cincinnati, OH 45221
United States

Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley

Kent State University ( email )

466 College of Business
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242
United States
(330)672-1087 (Phone)

Gary V. Engelhardt

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research ( email )

426 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States
315-443-4598 (Phone)
315-443-1081 (Fax)

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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