Survey Shows Older Americans' Health Engagement, Outlook on Life Improve
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging(n4a), National Council on Aging(NCOA), UnitedHealthcare and USA TODAYrelease results of third annual survey
- Survey shows a greater number of seniors are setting health goals and exercising daily than in 2013
- Uptick in healthy behaviors correlates with increased levels of optimism and confidence in maintaining health
- Financial confidence rising, but not main source of happiness for seniors
- Losing independence and memory, becoming a burden top seniors’ worries
According to the third annual survey, more than one-third of seniors (37 percent) say they exercise every day, compared with 26 percent in 2013. For many seniors, high activity levels correspond to a positive perspective on life: seniors who exercise daily are much more likely than those who never exercise to say the past year of their life has been better than normal rather than worse (28 percent compared with 15 percent).
More than half of seniors (53 percent) report setting health goals in 2014, compared with 47 percent in 2013. Seniors who set health goals are more than twice as likely to think their overall quality of life will improve compared with those who did not set health goals (38 percent vs. 16 percent), and more than three times as likely to be confident their health will be better in future years (28 percent vs. 9 percent). The top three health goals set by seniors this year are eating healthier (37 percent), losing weight (30 percent) and living a more physically active lifestyle (24 percent).
The results of the 2014 survey are being released today at the 39th
Annual n4a Conference & Tradeshow in
“More Americans are living longer lives than ever before,” said
When asked who is the most influential person motivating them to live a
healthy lifestyle, nearly 4 in 10 seniors (39 percent) say themselves.
More than one quarter of seniors (26 percent) say their spouse motivates
them, and 15 percent say their adult children do. Regardless of the
source of motivation, this year’s uptick in healthy behavior corresponds
with a notable shift: for the first time in the three-year history of
“The findings show that seniors are moving in the right direction with
their health, but there is still room for improvement,” said
Financial confidence on the rise, but seniors
say true happiness lies elsewhere
Despite remaining concern for the future, seniors are increasingly confident in their financial stability this year compared to 2013 and 2012. Nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) find it easy to pay monthly bills, continuing an upward trend from 64 percent in 2012. Additionally, 49 percent of seniors are concerned their savings and income will be sufficient to last the rest of their lives, down 4 percentage points since 2013.
Although finances are often a focus during retirement years, seniors rank them among the least important factors driving their optimism: only 5 percent say being financially secure is the key to keeping a positive outlook on life. The top three factors cited by seniors as contributing most to a positive outlook are their faith or spirituality (25 percent), a loving family (15 percent), and keeping a positive attitude (14 percent). Having a happy marriage or relationship (9 percent) also ranks higher than finances, as does taking care of one’s health (9 percent) and staying mentally and physically active (6 percent each).
The link between independence and community
More than half of seniors (54 percent) feel their community is doing enough to prepare for the needs of a growing senior population, but younger seniors are less likely to agree: only 48 percent of seniors 60-64 feel their communities are doing enough.
The top services seniors say they will need help with as they age are home maintenance (40 percent), transportation (39 percent) and long-term care (36 percent); however, some seniors say their communities are not currently fulfilling these needs. While more than half of seniors (59 percent) say transportation support currently provided by their community is adequate, only 22 percent feel home maintenance help meets seniors needs. Home maintenance support could be critical for some seniors, since more than 3 in 4 (77 percent) say they intend to stay in their current home for the rest of their lives, and more than half (53 percent) say they would prefer to live independently for the remainder of their senior years.
Looking ahead: end-of-life care, and top
worries for seniors as they age
When asked what worries them the most about their senior years, the top three answers for seniors are “not being able to take care of myself” (16 percent), “losing my memory” (14 percent), and “being a burden” (9 percent); however, a majority of seniors (85 percent) feel confident that they are prepared for changes in their health as they age.
More than half of Americans over 60 (58 percent) say they have discussed end-of-life care with loved ones, a proportion that rises to 64 percent for seniors 75 and older. More than half of seniors (53 percent) report creating advance directives such as a living will, and 50 percent have shared advance directives with loved ones. Still, one in 10 seniors say they do not want to plan for or think about end-of-life care.
Low-income and socially-isolated seniors face
The 2014 United States of
Although low-income seniors say they rely on themselves most for motivation to stay healthy or get healthier (37 percent), they are less likely to have set health goals for themselves this year (39 percent) than in 2013 (45 percent). In addition, low-income seniors report doing less to prepare for their senior years compared with seniors nationally (50 percent compared with 73 percent).
Socially-isolated seniors are more pessimistic about their immediate future than seniors nationally: they are more likely to say their quality of life will get worse over the next five to 10 years (30 percent vs. 21 percent). Socially-isolated seniors are also more concerned about needing help from community programs as they age compared with seniors nationally (36 percent and 26 percent, respectively), and are more likely to express concern about being able to age in place (52 percent vs. 29 percent).
“These findings reinforce the crucial role community-based programs and
services play in supporting the needs of older Americans, and
opportunities to further assist vulnerable groups through meaningful
relationships and social connections that can help keep them healthy and
For complete survey results, visit ncoa.org/UnitedStatesofAging.
To watch live as the survey is presented at the Annual n4a Conference &
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and