Older Americans Resources and Services (OARS)

Examining the impact of services on the functional state of older adults in clinical and research settings

OARS Overview and Contents

The Duke OARS (Older Americans Resources and Services) Program, developed at the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, was specifically designed as a means of determining the impact of services and alternative service programs on the functional status of older persons. The resulting brief, valid, and reliable instruments have been used for purposes as varied as individual clinical assessment of personal functional status, surveys of the status of adult populations, assessment of service utilization and service requirements, longitudinal investigations in community, clinic and long-term care settings, and training of service providers.

In order to examine the impact of services on functional state, OARS developed a three-part model:

1) Assessment of individual functional status, in order to group together people of comparable functional status;

2) Disaggregation of services into their generic components, and reaggregation according to actual use (service packages);

3) Use of a transition matrix to study the impact of specific service packages on specific functional states.

The OARS Multidimensional Functional Assessment Questionnaire (OMFAQ) operationalizes the first two parts of this model. The first section of the OMFAQ seeks information on five dimensions of functioning: Social Resources, Economic Resources, Mental Health, Physical Health, and ability to carry out Activities of Daily Living. On each dimension the information obtained is summarized on a 6-point scale where the values range from 1 (level of functioning excellent) to 6 (level of functioning totally impaired).

The second section of the OMFAQ inquires about the extent, intensity of utilization, and perceived need for each of 24 non-overlapping, broadly encompassing generic services.

Total administration time for the entire OMFAQ is about 45 minutes. Information is usually sought in a personal interview with the subject or an informant, although sections can be obtained by mail or telephone. No advanced or professional education is required to administer this questionnaire.

Individual professionals and/or program directors who are planning to make use of the OARS multidimensional functional assessment technology on a regular programmatic basis or for a research project should review the OARS Manual, to assure consistent and reliable data collection. All who plan to conduct interviews on a regular basis should be trained in the administration of the OARS questionnaire. 

Fillenbaum GG. Multidimensional Functional Assessment of Older Adults: The Duke Older Americans Resources and Services Procedures. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ, 1988.
(updated in 2005, available electronically)


Chap 1. The OARS Multidimensional Functional Assessment Questionnaire
Chap 2. The Validity and Reliability of the OARS Multidimensional Functional Assessment Questionnaire
Chap 3. Psychometric Structure and Computer-Based Rating of Part A. Functional Assessment
Chap 4. Services
Chap 5. Aggregating Functional Status and Services Information
Chap 6. The OARS Model: Use and Uses
Chap 7. Administration of the OARS Multidimensional Functional Assessment Questionnaire
Chap 8. Differences between the 1975 and 1988 Editions of the OARS Multidimensional Functional Assessment Questionnaire
Chap 9. Comparison Norms: Elderly Living in the Community, Institutions, and Attending Daycare

Appendix A. Variable List and Input Format for the 1988 Version of the OARS Multidimensional Functional Assessment Questionnaire

Appendix B. Coding Aids
Preliminary Questionnaire, Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire (SPMSQ)
Question 34. Short Psychiatric Evaluation Schedule (SPES)
Question 42. Aid to Coding Common Prescribed Medications Taken in the Past Month

Author Index
Subject Index

The following OARS materials are available for use and free of charge to clinicians and researchers:

Manual (updated 2005)
Questionnaire (community & institutional versions)
ADL/IADL (excerpt from full questionnaire)


OARS materials are posted on Open Science Framework, and can be accessed at https://osf.io/94qv5/ 

***NOTE: This instrument and documentation were developed in the mid-twentieth-century and copyrighted in 1975. Some of the terminology and language present in the documents is not what is considered standard or acceptable in the modern day. Users may adjust dated language as needed, recognizing that significant changes &/or translation into other languages may require revalidation of the instruments by the user.***

Questions? Email us at OARS@duke.edu