Aging with SCI

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on

Aging with a Disability

Center Overview

Center Purpose

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Spinal Cord Injury was funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, part of the U.S. Department of Education. This RRTC is a collaborative effort of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and the University of Southern California.

The RRTC on Aging with Spinal Cord Injury is dedicated to research, training and information dissemination that results in increased knowledge about the health, functional and psychosocial changes experienced by persons with SCI as they age.

The funding cycle of this RRTC was from September 1, 1998 through August 31, 2003.

Center Objectives

  • to conduct applied research related to aging with spinal cord injury;
  • to train health care professionals, researchers and consumers about how to conduct rehabilitation research; and
  • to disseminate research and clinical findings to consumers and professionals through presentations, symposiums, published articles and consumer information fact sheets.

Consumer Involvement

This Center was a joint effort of consumers, their families and professional staff. Consumers were involved in every aspect of the Center from providing input into the development of the Center to participating in the research projects as researchers and in every training event.

 Background Statement

One of the most important changes in the United States over the last 50 years has been the rapid increase in the number of people living into their 70s, 80s and beyond. Today, average life expectancy is about 78 years compared to 47 years in 1900. All individuals are experiencing increased longevity, including people who sustained a spinal cord injury earlier in their lives.

In the early 1940s, before the widespread availability of antibiotics, life expectancy following a spinal cord injury was only about 1.5 years. Today, average life expectancy for someone sustaining a spinal cord injury is about 80% of “normal” life expectancy, depending upon the level of injury. The advent and availability of antibiotics, improved surgical approaches, changes in rehabilitation techniques and improved follow-up care for people with SCI have been the biggest factors influencing longevity. As a result, for the first time in history, a large number of people with a spinal cord injury are aging into middle and late life.

While it was once thought that a condition such as spinal cord injury was fairly stable after the initial onset, evidence has shown that many people experience the onset of new medical, functional, psychological and support problems as they age. These problems were neither anticipated nor planned for in earlier eras. Heart disease, diabetes, pain, fatigue, loss of strength, job loss, discouragement and family problems have all been reported. These changes have a major impact on the person aging with SCI as well as on family and friends.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with a Disability
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
7601 E. Imperial Hwy, Building 800-W
Downey, California 90242;  (voice) 562-401-7402; (fax) 562-401-7011
webmaster:[email protected]