Challenged but Upbeat: How Americans are Navigating Old Age

Members | September 18, 2012

Older people are feeling pretty upbeat about aging, according to a new survey from the National Council on the Aging. But they still have serious concerns about their housing, their ability to age in place and their long-term health.

The United States of Aging, a new survey by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA), suggests that older people are feeling pretty upbeat about aging. But the responses from 2,250 survey participants suggest that seniors also have serious concerns about their housing, their ability to age in place and their long-term health.

According to the survey results, close to 70% of seniors aged 60 and older say that the past year of their lives has been normal or better than normal. Nearly all (90%) look forward to living in their current homes for the next 5 to 10 years. 

Despite this strong desire to age in place, however, most survey respondents still view local senior living facilities in a favorable light.

Septuagenarians are decidedly less optimistic about aging than their younger counterparts. These 70-year-olds worry about their future quality of life. Fewer than half (43%) currently find it easy to live independently. This may explain why 70-year-olds have the most favorable attitudes of any age group toward senior living communities. 

Aging in Place: Easy for Some, Not for Others

Two-thirds (65%) of respondents between the ages of 60 and 70 find it very easy to live independently. While many of these older adults plan to stay in their current homes for the foreseeable future, however, only 1 in 5 has made significant home modifications to help them age in place.

One in 10 seniors reported moving from their home in the past 10 years, mostly to reduce the burdens of home maintenance. However, 1 in 4 respondents reported finding themselves “stuck in place,” either because they cannot afford to move or they do not believe they will be able to sell their homes.

Challenged by Finances and Health

Finances are a challenge for many older adults. Roughly 1 in 4 seniors have difficulty paying monthly living expenses, and one-third feels financially unprepared for the costs of long-term care. Seven out of 10 older adults are confident that their finances will carry them through retirement. Yet, more than one quarter of 60-to-64-year-olds are not confident in or do not have a financial plan for retirement.

On the health side, almost three-quarters (72%) of low- to moderate-income seniors say they have a chronic health condition. Despite these physical challenges, however, most (90%) seniors appear to be very confident about their ability to maintain their health over the next decade.

Families are Important

Family networks play an important role in the life of older adults. Close to one-third of survey respondents either live with their nearest relatives or within walking distance. One-third of seniors aged 60 to 69 acts as a caregiver for someone else. While more than half of 70-year-olds report having someone they view as a caregiver, these older adults are less likely than younger seniors to have a caregiver who lives with them.