Connections with Community and Family – Not Money – Most Important for
Seniors' Quality of Life
*Healthy living another key indicator of happiness in old age
*Women, African Americans most optimistic about growing older
*National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare release results of the second
annual United States of Aging Survey
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- July 30, 2013
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
The results of the 2013 survey are being released today at the National
Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) 38th Annual Conference in
Louisville, Ky., as part of a broader effort led by n4a, NCOA,
UnitedHealthcare and USA TODAY to educate seniors and stakeholders in
communities across the country and support further awareness and understanding
of senior perspectives on aging.
“The United States of Aging Survey shows us that seniors are an optimistic
group,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare
Medicare & Retirement. “By learning more about seniors’ priorities, successes
and unmet needs, we hope to identify the services, programs and
infrastructure that may best support older adults so that future generations
of seniors can have this same sense of optimism as they age.”
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.
Taking care of health associated with optimistic outlook
The 2013 United States of Aging Survey finds that seniors have maintained a
positive outlook on their future and the aging process. Eighty-six percent of
seniors say they are confident about their ability to maintain a high quality
of life, and 60 percent expect their health to stay the same during the next
five to 10 years (compared with 53 percent of adults ages 18-59).
The survey also finds that women and African Americans are among the most
optimistic about growing older. Of the most optimistic seniors – those
surveyed who expect their quality of life in the next five to 10 years to be
“much better” or “somewhat better” – 65 percent are women and 18 percent are
African American, compared with the national sample comprising 55 percent
women and 8 percent African Americans.
Seniors focused on taking care of their health are more optimistic about
aging. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of optimistic seniors have set one or
more specific goals to manage their health in the past 12 months, compared
with 47 percent of the overall senior population.
This and other findings reveal important opportunities to help seniors improve
their health. While 65 percent of seniors report having at least two chronic
health conditions, less than one in five has received guidance in the past
year to develop an action plan for managing their health. Additionally, 26
percent of seniors nationally indicate they exercise less than once a week for
30 minutes or more. Low-income seniors face additional challenges, with 74
percent reporting at least one barrier to managing their health condition,
such as lack of energy or money.
“This year’s survey points to the impact of health on an individual’s ability
to age successfully,” said Richard Birkel, Ph.D., senior vice president,
healthy aging, and director of the NCOA’s Self- Management Alliance. “But
maintaining good health as we age requires being proactive, especially for
people with chronic health conditions. We must seize opportunities across
local communities to empower seniors with the skills they need to stay
Communities responsive but not doing enough to support seniors
Most seniors (71 percent) feel the community they live in is responsive to
their needs, but less than half (49 percent) believe their city or town is
doing enough to prepare for the future needs of a growing senior population.
Twenty-six percent say their city or town should invest in better public
transportation, and 23 percent say their city or town should invest more in
affordable health care services and housing.
Seniors give low ratings to the quality of public transportation and job
opportunities in their city or town: just 16 percent and 10 percent,
respectively, rate their community’s transit and employment offerings as
“excellent” or “very good.”
Compared with seniors, adults ages 18-59 are less likely to believe that the
community they live in is doing enough to prepare for the needs of a growing
senior population (41 percent).
The changing economics of retirement and concerns of living longer
Nearly half (47 percent) of retired seniors have access to pensions, and among
seniors that are not yet retired, 41 percent plan to rely on Social Security
as their primary source of retirement income. In contrast, just 23 percent of
adults ages 18-59 plan to rely primarily on Social Security. Forty-eight
percent of adults ages 18-59 say they will live mostly off of their personal
savings and investments in their senior years.
While most seniors are able to pay their monthly expenses, many express
concern about the financial impact of living longer. Though two-thirds (66
percent) of seniors believe it to be very easy or somewhat easy to pay their
monthly living expenses, more than half (53 percent) are somewhat to very
concerned that their savings and income will not be sufficient to last them
for the rest of their life.
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
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
For complete survey results, visit ncoa.org/UnitedStatesofAging. To watch live
as the survey is presented at the n4a Annual Conference in Louisville,
including an interview with featured keynote speaker Dr. Nancy Snyderman,
visit USofAging.USATODAY.com on July 30 from 4-5:30 pm, EDT. Join the
conversation on Twitter at #USofAging.
About The United States of Aging Survey
The United States of Aging Survey is an annual survey conducted by the
National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA TODAY. For the 2013
survey, Penn Schoen Berland completed 4,000 telephone interviews from April 4,
2013, to May 3, 2013, including nationally representative samples of Americans
ages 60 and older and adults ages 18-59. The margin of error for the national
samples is +/-3.1 percent and between 3.7 percent and 5 percent for
oversampled subpopulations. Data from general population samples, the regional
oversampled audiences and the oversampled audience of seniors ages 80 and
older are weighted to U.S. Census Bureau demographic statistics in terms of
age, ethnicity, gender, income and marital status.
About the National Council on Aging
The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization
headquartered in Washington, D.C. NCOA is a national voice for millions of
older adults – especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged – and the
community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit
organizations, businesses, and government to develop creative solutions that
improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of
organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits,
improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their
communities. For more information, please visit: www.ncoa.org
|www.facebook.com/NCOAging | www.twitter.com/NCOAging
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 Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with
780,000 physicians and other care professionals and 5,900 hospitals and other
care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 40 million
people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group
(NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.
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Jessica Pappas, 410-735-8725
National Council on Aging
Jean Van Ryzin, 202-600-3166
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