One of the most impactful socio-economic trends taking place in this country is the aging of the population. At the last count in 2014, there were over 46 million seniors in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, data shows that the senior population is growing at one of the fastest rates in American history: every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. By 2050, the number of people over 65 will nearly double.
AAII Weekly Survey Question
As people age, people’s perceptions about aging also change. To get an idea of what our readers’ biggest fears are about aging, we posted the following question to them:
What is your biggest fear as you get older?
However, we also had respondents identify their age group, broken down by decade, from 30 to 39, 40 to 49, 50 to 59, 60 to 69 and 70 and older.
Here are the results, weighted by age:
Click on the pie chart to open a larger, easier-to-read version.
In all, 2,023 readers had participated when we compiled these results. The age breakdown of the respondents was as follows:
- 30 to 39: 0.6%
- 40 to 49: 2.2%
- 50 to 59: 9.4%
- 60 to 69: 30.5%
- 70 and older: 57.3%
Since the pie chart above represents age-weighted results, older readers had a greater impact on the overall results, since they represented the majority of participants. Those aged 60 and older accounted for nearly 88% of participants.
Among the separate age groups, here were the greatest fears about aging (and the percentage it represents within that age group)
- 30 to 39: Not having financial security (66.7%)
- 40 to 49: Not having financial security (31.8%)
- 50 to 59: Being in poor health (41.3%)
- 60 to 69: Being in poor health (35.7%)
- 70 and older: Being in poor health (29.5%)
These results indicate that, as someone ages, the focus shifts from financial security to health. In fact, for the 60 to 69 and 70 and older age groups, having financial security ranked no higher than fourth out of the six choices. Overall, as the results indicate, as people age they worry most about losing their independence in some way, either physically, mentally or financially.
On an age-weighted basis, being in poor health is the greatest fear about aging ranked highest with almost one-third (32.4%) of the responses. Nearly tied for second place were “Losing my memory” (20.7%) and “Losing my independence” (20.5%).
“Not having financial security” ranked as the fourth biggest fear about aging with 12.4% of the votes, on an age-weighted basis.
Less than 5% of respondents fear having to move into a nursing home while 9.1% worry about being a burden on their family.
Weekly Special Question
Since the aging of America will put pressures on health care, social services and caregivers, we were curious to see what suggestions our readers have as to what improvements can be made to the health care and social service needs of seniors. So last week’s special question asked:
In what ways do you think the country can improve when it comes to meeting the health care and social service needs of seniors?
In all, 564 readers submitted a response, making this one of the most responded-to special questions we have ever posed to our readers. Not surprisingly, the responses were broad and varied. However, certain themes certainly developed from the responses.
According to our readers, the biggest way this country can improve health care for seniors is by reducing the cost of health care (nearly 22% of responses).
However, there is disagreement as to how that can be achieved.
The second-largest group of responses—with almost 21% of responses—suggests expanding government-run health care, either through a single-payer health care system which, in effect, is a national health care system whereby financing is organized by a public or quasi-public agency, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands, or by moving to universal health care/Medicare. The third-largest group of responses (roughly 18%), alternatively, suggests privatizing the health care system to encourage competition and reduce costs or removing the government from the business of providing health care altogether.
With all the debate going on in Washington, D.C., these days, though, repealing or fixing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, received only 8% of the responses.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that almost 7% of those responding want to keep their current health care services.
Here is a sampling of the responses to the special question:
- “Continue to support medical knowledge. It is the one thing this country does better than any other country.”
- “Moving to a completely universal medical system, like the U.S. military has.”
- “Put in place a system that will not bankrupt you if you have a major health problem. I believe there should be a limit on what out-of-pocket costs you should have to pay before a medical fund kicks in to help.”
- “Repeal ACA [Obamacare] and get Congress to adopt a bipartisan, fair and reasonable health care system.”
- “Single-payer system with the ability of payer to negotiate drug and provider costs.”
- “The health care is there—plenty of doctors and hospitals—social services are there—plenty of programs funded by the government.”
- “We should be focused on breaking up the status quo. One might start by dismantling our over-priced health care system and creating more competition with limits on costs and services. Health care is a product, let’s start buying this like other products we use. Hospitals and health care facilities should be required to post the cost of all services. We need better information to make cost-effective choices. Stop letting fear of the unknown costs fuzzy up your otherwise rational decision-making process.”
- “I don’t think it is the ‘country’s place’ to meet the needs of seniors. It’s a matter of individuals preparing for their older years by deciding what kind of lifestyle they want and saving/investing toward that goal. I suppose there could be more publicity about saving and investing aimed at those under 60, both working and still in school. The welfare state is not the answer.”
- “Incentivize young people to save more.”
- “Stop the doctor, pharmacy and big drug company rip-offs.”
- “Education and promotion of healthy lifestyles.”
Everybody has an opinion! Why not give us yours? Participate in our weekly member poll, updated every Monday, and see the results online at www.aaii.com/memberquestion.