AARP study shows Seniors favor a good life, over a lengthy one

Published in RINewsToday on September 26, 2022, 

Even with many older adults facing health challenges in their later years, they maintain an optimistic view of their aging and expect their lives to improve as they grow older, according to new research findings from AARP in collaboration with National Geographic Partners. The study found that three-quarters or more of those age 60 and over have at least one serious health condition, nearly half rate their health as very good or excellent.  

“The insights in this [57 page] study demand that we reexamine our assumptions about aging, especially outdated stereotypes around growing older,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP in a statement released on June 1, 2022, announcing the findings of the study. “Far from being dragged down by worries about their health and finances, adults in their 70s and beyond are optimistic and positive about their lives.

They have a clear-eyed view of what it means to age, and they want their final decades of life to be independent and healthy – as they define the terms!” she says. 

According to the Second Half of Life Research study, Americans are doing more to stay healthy as they move into their later years.  They are more likely to take control of their health by getting health screenings, eating more produce and monitoring their sugar intake. And having more healthy years matters more than simply living longer – most respondents say that they were interested in a hypothetical pill that could slow down aging, but far fewer would take a pill to extend their life by a decade. 

The AARP study also found that the oldest Americans are also some of the happiest people: about one in three people aged 80 and older said they were very happy with their life, compared to just 16% of those ages 40-49. The researchers paired a national survey of adults 18 and older with in-depth interviews to paint a detailed picture of Americans’ outlook on life in the years from 40 to 100, and how those perceptions evolve with each decade. They found that relations with families and friends become an important feature and a source of purpose and joy as we age. Retirement allows one to control their lives and they choose to spend it with loved ones and having hobbies. Travel is expected but falls off as the person ages.  

The AARP study’s findings indicate that as people move into their later years, they don’t seem concerned about the length of their life, and as they live longer it becomes even less of a concern. “Fear of dying is low and drops as you age; feeling the need to prepare grows as you age,” notes the researchers.

On the financial front, just over half of adults 70 and older say their financial situation is excellent or very good – but responses vary widely by household income. More than half of those with an income of less than $30,000 per year rate their financial situation as fair or poor, while 60% of those with an income over $100,000 rate their finances as excellent or very good.

Among adults who are still working, most want to retire at a younger age than they think they will be able to – a gap that gets smaller with age. 

Most Americans want and expect to live independently as they age; only in their 80s did more respondents say they would need support to do so. Living in “my home” is also preferred over living in a retirement community, but this desire declines in the later decades, says the study’s findings.

The AARP Study also found that brain health, independence, and relationships were the top concerns of the respondents. The study’s findings indicate that memory loss was a top concern, too. For the respondents, memory and strength becomes a top concern as the person reached age 50 and over, while fear of cancer became less of a concern.

The study’s respondents expressed fear of becoming incontinent and have diminished hearing in their later years, but fear of diabetes and sexual performance loss declined after their 60s. 

For older study respondents, reliance on Social Security becomes a certainty. Hopefully this finding will reach the ears of Congressional lawmakers as they debate the merits of strengthening and expanding the nation’s Social Security program.

The study’s findings note that researchers also say that fears about the ability to live independently steadily increase over the decades.  Assistance from family and friends are more preferable to respondents when living at home, than hiring help. This preference increases as they age.

AARP’s Second Half of Life study, conducted in collaboration with National Geographic Partners with Heart+Mind Strategies, included an online and telephone survey of 2,580 US adults ages 18 and older, conducted January 7-28, 2022, and 25 in-depth, individual 30-minute interviews conducted virtually from February 22 to March 4, 2022.  Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis by age group, gender, census division, ethnicity, and education.

To view the Second Half of Life Study’s report, go to:  https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/life-leisure/2022/second-half-life-desires-concerns-report.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00538.001.pdf.

For more information, please contact Vicki Levy, AARP’s Senior Research Advisor, at vlevy@aarp.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s