Excerpt from www.ncoa.org
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Relationships with friends and family outweigh financial concerns among older Americans seeking fulfillment in their senior years, according to the second annual United States of Aging Survey. When asked what is most important to maintaining a high quality of life in their senior years, staying connected to friends and family was the top choice of 4 in 10 seniors, ahead of having financial means (30 percent).
For the 2013 edition of The United States of Aging Survey, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), UnitedHealthcare, and USA TODAY surveyed 4,000 U.S. adults including a nationally representative sample of seniors ages 60 and older. This year, for the first time, the survey also included a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18-59 to provide contrasting perspectives on aging and explore how the country could better prepare for a booming senior population.
The importance of connectivity
The survey finds that seniors are driven by a desire for connectedness. More than half of seniors (53 percent) nationally indicate that being close to friends and family is important and only 15 percent report occasional feelings of isolation. Eighty-four percent of seniors nationally cite technology as important to their ability to connect with the world around them.
Seniors who report experiencing feelings of isolation and depression express less optimism regarding their future health and quality of life compared with seniors nationally: 37 percent of isolated seniors believe their overall quality of life will get worse in the next five to 10 years (compared with 24 percent of all seniors), and 32 percent of isolated seniors believe their health will get worse, compared with 23 percent of all seniors.
Low-income seniors also face challenges. While they cite technology as important to staying in touch with family and friends (81 percent), issues of technology access persist, with 47 percent of low-income seniors reporting cost as a barrier to using more technology, and 48 percent indicating they have trouble understanding how to use technology.
Getting the most from more golden years
With life expectancies on the rise and the centenarian population set to boom, the survey reveals what seniors are most looking forward to in their “bonus years”—the years they may live beyond the average U.S. life expectancy of 78. More than 4 in 10 (41 percent) say seeing their children and grandchildren grow up is the most exciting prospect of living a longer life. One-fifth say spending time with friends and family will be the best part of their bonus years, and 18 percent say they are excited to have more time to do the things they enjoy.
The survey finds that seniors themselves are casting doubt on the famous adage, “The older you get, the wiser you become.” While 19 percent of adults ages 18-59 believe aging means becoming wiser, only 9 percent of those ages 60 and older agree.
Perhaps that’s because both seniors and younger adults share the belief that “there’s no such thing as getting old” because “age is a state of mind,” statements with which 28 percent of seniors and 27 percent of adults aged 18-59 agree.
For complete survey results, visit ncoa.org/UnitedStatesofAging.