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Survey Reveals Concerns of Older Americans

 

The fourth annual United States of Aging Survey finds that older Americans' concerns about their later years differ from those of the professionals who support them.

For adults 60 and older, the top three concerns about growing older include maintaining their physical health, memory loss and maintaining their mental health. The professionals who serve them are more concerned with protecting them from financial scams, access to affordable housing and memory loss.

Each year, the United States of Aging Survey – conducted by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, National Council on Aging (NCOA) and UnitedHealthcare – polls U.S. adults 60 and older for their insights on how older Americans are preparing for their later years, and what communities can do to better support this growing population. New in 2015, the survey also polled professionals who work closely with older adults, including Area Agencies on Aging staff, credit union managers, primary care physicians and pharmacists, to gain their perspectives on the challenges older Americans face as they age.

A majority of both older adults and professionals feel seniors are prepared overall for the process of aging (86% and 77%, respectively). Older adults, however, are far more confident: only 10% of professionals surveyed feel older Americans are "very prepared" to age, compared with 42% of seniors.

Professionals who work with older Americans are sounding the alarm when it comes to seniors' financial health. Only 3% of professionals say they are very confident seniors will be able to afford their health care costs as they age, compared with 43% of older Americans. While only 19% of older adults anticipate needing support managing their finances as they age, 86% of professionals stress this need.

Older adults and professionals agree that saving money (39% and 43%, respectively) and sticking to a budget (43% and 38%) are among top ways to maintain financial fitness, yet a closer look reveals different perspectives on other actions to be taken. Professionals are more inclined to anticipate future needs, suggesting that older adults work beyond retirement age (43%) and reduce housing costs (36%) to help manage finances. However, older adults focus more on short-term ways to manage finances by taking advantage of senior discounts (43%) and limiting leisure expenses (36%) as part of their financial-management strategies.

Older adults are looking to their communities for support as they age so they can continue living in their homes and neighborhoods as long as possible. A majority of older adults have not changed residences in more than 20 years (58%), and 75% say they intend to live in their current home for the rest of their lives. Both older adults and professionals who work with them would like to see services that would help seniors with home modifications and repairs (62% and 97%, respectively).

When asked what concerns they have about living independently, adults 60 and older say they are most concerned about becoming a burden to others (42%), experiencing memory loss (41%) and not being able to get out of the house and/or drive (34%).

Older adults are generally satisfied with their community's infrastructure (78%), yet only 22% of those surveyed find public transportation "acceptable," and nearly three in 10 rate it as "poor." Although older adults and professionals agree their communities offer seniors a good quality of life (79% and 92%, respectively), fewer than half of older adults and professionals say their community is doing enough to prepare for the needs of the growing older adult population (47% and 37%).

Fifty-nine percent of older adults say that young people today are less supportive of seniors than their own generation was in previous years. Only about a quarter (24%) see the same levels of support, and just 12% say young people are more supportive of older adults. Yet, 79% of seniors express confidence that they would be able to find help and support in their communities as they age.

Older adults agree with aging professionals about the role of family, friends and faith: six in 10 seniors say that family is the most important support group for older adults, followed by friends (15%) and a church or spiritual center (10%). Professionals agree with seniors' top three, with 59% ranking family as most important, followed by people from a church or spiritual center (11%) and friends (10%).

More than half of older Americans (57%) say they generally consider themselves very positive and optimistic. Seniors cite their faith or spirituality, and a loving family as their top reasons for having a positive outlook on life (18% each).

Overall, older Americans are very satisfied with their relationships with family and friends (78%), their housing situation (73%) and mental wellbeing (71%); however, they express less satisfaction with their financial situation and physical health (41% and 40% are very satisfied, respectively).

In addition, physical activity is on the rise: 82% of older adults say they exercise at least once per week, up from 75% in 2014 and 72% in 2013.

The survey findings are at ncoa.org/UnitedStatesofAging.

 

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