Revealing the relationship between mobility impairment and life satisfaction can help to propose effective interventions to secure mobility and life satisfaction. However, the relationship remains unclear and lacks quantitative evidence in China. This study therefore assesses the association of mobility impairment, social engagement, and life satisfaction among the older population in China.
Based on the sample of China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey database in 2013, a structural equation modeling is established. The sample size is 4245 with 55.9% with mobility impairment.
The model shows that the length of suffering from disability is significantly related to mobility impairment (β = 0.058, p < 0.001). Mobility impairment is inversely related to social engagement (β = −0.300, p < 0.001) and life satisfaction (β = −0.311, p < 0.001). Social engagement is positively related to life satisfaction (β = 0.211, p < 0.001). Moreover, the relationships have some differences for the seniors with different sociodemographic characteristics and living in different residential areas.
As seniors get older, they tend to have more severe mobility impairment and participate less in social activities. Those with higher mobility impairment are more likely to report lower life satisfaction partly because they usually participate less in social activities. Different strategies are suggested to be adopted to improve the life satisfaction of the older population from the aspects of promoting mobility and social engagement, including improving the design of transport facilitates, providing assistive facilities for the seniors with severe mobility impairment, promoting the accessibility of community leisure and healthcare services, and constructing more community senior activity centers.