Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises” purrs about a “storm coming” -- an epic clash between the haves and have nots over financial solvency and greed. But forget about the storm; America is poised to face a huge “gray wave” as more than 77 million baby boomers turn 65 (that’s 10,000 “Happy Birthdays” a day) and live longer than their predecessors.
Is the country ready to deal with an aging population on such a grand scale? An aging survey released today by the National Council On Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today begins to broach that question.
The United States of Aging Survey asked 2,250 American adults ages 60 and up on pressing issues such as financial security, housing, transportation and health. While it didn’t answer the larger question of America’s readiness to handle a growing aging population that wants to age in place, it did provide a snapshot into respondents’ “own individual readiness for aging as well as their perceptions of their community’s resources for senior residents,” according to the survey.
Some older Americans expressed concern about their community’s ability to provide services in the future -- 23 percent said they had “no confidence that these resources would be available over the next five to 10 years.” Although many expressed satisfaction with their community, 34 percent acknowledged that “high-quality transportation” was not available, limiting their ability to get around.
When it came to financial security, respondents’ feelings reflected a confidence in their current position but uncertainty in what the future held. Nearly two-thirds of older Americans said that it is “very or somewhat easy to pay monthly living expenses now,” but 24 percent are unsure if their income will be enough in the next five to 10 years. Respondents were also unsure about their retirement savings (23 percent aren’t confident in or don’t have a financial plan) and ability to afford Medicare costs (of those ages 60-64, one-quarter didn’t think they’d be able to make deductibles, copays and the like in the future).
The study also asked respondents about caregiving and aging in place. Some 87 percent of older Americans who have a caregiver rely on family. For those who currently do not have a caregiver, 39 percent said “it is likely” that one of their kids or grandchildren will step into the role. As for staying at home into their golden years, an overwhelming majority in each age group believed that they could live at home without having to make any “home modifications” (86 percent of people 70 and up; 85 percent of 60 to 65 year olds; and 82 percent of respondents aged 65 to 69).
On the plus side, older Americans report that they are healthier and happier than ever. When it came to stress, 92 percent said they manage their stress levels “well.” A majority of those surveyed -- 84 percent -- said they are confident “they will be able to do what is needed to maintain their health over the next five to 10 years,” while three in four people aged 60 to 69 said they expect their quality of life to stay the same or improve over the same time period.
The survey’s findings will be discussed with a number of experts including Donna Shalala, the University of Miami’s president and former secretary of the Department of Health and Human services, at a town hall event in Miami on August 8.