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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotRoseann Martoccia

2015: A milestone year

This year the Social Security Act turns 80, Medicare turns 50, and the Older Americans Act turns 50, too! Every day, 10,000 Americans are turning 65.

Perspectives from today’s older Americans

Now in its fourth year, the 2015 United States of Aging Survey, conducted by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and UnitedHealthcare, examines the perspectives on aging and what communities can do to better support an increasing, longer-living population of older persons in our country. The survey was comprised of 1,650 telephone interviews of representative samples of older Americans and professionals who work closely with older people, including primary care physicians, pharmacists, and credit union managers. Here are some key findings organized by the four content areas of health, the cost of aging, staying at home, and community connections and the concerns of older people in contrast to professionals working with them.

Do seniors have concerns about their health?

In the health arena, elders are concerned with maintaining their physical health, losing their memory, and maintaining their mental health. Professionals’ top concerns included protection from financial scams, access to affordable housing, and memory loss. There is agreement among the two groups that keys to maintaining good health include healthy eating, a positive attitude, and getting enough sleep. However, more professionals also add the elements of visiting the doctor regularly and taking medications as prescribed. Fifty-seven percent of older people describe themselves as positive and optimistic, noting faith or spirituality and a loving family as their top reasons for being positive. Older adults and professionals agree that positive attitude, an active social life, and regular exercise are some of the best ways to stay mentally sharp.

What about the rising cost of aging in America?

The top financial worries keeping Americans up at night are the increasing costs of living and unexpected medical expenses. An even higher percentage of professionals express concern about affordability of unexpected medical expenses. Less than 25% of older adults anticipate needing support managing their finances in later life, however, more than 75% of professionals stress the possible need for assistance with financial management.

Do older Americans want to live in their own homes?

A majority of older adults have not moved in more than 20 years and 75% intend to live in their current home for the rest of their lives. On a practical level, thirty-four percent have made bathroom upgrades and 28% have improved lighting. Both older adults and professionals working with them would like to see more services that would help with home modifications and repairs.

Are communities doing enough to promote healthy aging?

Are communities doing enough? While there is agreement among older persons and professionals that local communities offer a good quality of life, fewer than half of elders surveyed and a less than 40% of professionals say their community is doing enough to prepare for the needs of retiring Baby Boomers.

Learn more about what elders think of life in America

For complete survey results, visit www.ncoa.org/UnitedStatesofAging. Next month’s SeniorGram will highlight some of the priorities expressed at the White House Conference on Aging held on July 13, 2015. While we have prepared for the Greying of America, there is much more to do, and more advocacy for older adults and their needs is of vital importance. Make your voice heard!