LeadingAge wanted to get a better idea of how older adults view quality of life and aging, particularly should they develop physical or cognitive impairments and need long-term services and supports (LTSS). So, we teamed up with NORC, a research institution at the University of Chicago, to survey a representative sample of 1,200 older adults between the ages of 60 and 72.
Those survey results, which we unveiled during the LeadingAge Leadership Summit in March, contain new information that challenges many commonly-held views about how baby boomers want to age. Highlights include:
- Some of what the respondents told us was consistent with earlier surveys of all adults or all older adults. However, some of what this highly targeted group told us was surprising.
- Asked what would be important if they were in a position of needing help with daily activities, being safe was ranked the most important consideration, higher even than being around family or friends.
- We found that 40% said they would want to live somewhere other than their current home or apartment if they had a physical disability that required them to need help with daily activities. Most earlier studies and surveys report that the majority (76% or more) of adults say they want to stay in their own home. These earlier studies do not target older baby boomers and they do not ask for separate responses depending on whether the impairment is physical or cognitive.
- In fact, 14% said they’d move to a place that is staffed to provide health care plus help with daily activities if they needed help because of a physical disability. When asked where they would want to live if they needed help due to dementia, that number grew to 42%. This has enormous implications – we must attend to assuring a service system is there when they need it.
- Even with physical disability and a need for help with daily activities, 60% of respondents said they would prefer remaining in their current home or apartment. That percentage dropped to 29% if they had dementia and a need for help with daily activities—far lower than has been reported in other surveys of all adults.
- There was a notable difference in the desire to live with adult children/relatives by income, with those at the lower earning end nearly three times as likely as those at the higher end to say they would want to do that. However, when asked if they would want to live in a home attached to an adult child or relative’s home, the situation flipped, with those on the higher end being almost twice as likely to want to do that.
- According to many other surveys, there is a significant lack of planning for the future across all adults. While most in this LeadingAge survey said they would want a spouse or son or daughter to help them with health care decisions, more than half said they have not taken steps to put an arrangement in place to help with health care decisions. Along the same lines, 61% of the respondents worried that LTSS was going to cost more than they could afford.
- When asked what worries them most if they were to need LTSS, the biggest worry by far was becoming a burden on family members. It was interesting to see that only 10% of respondents worried about not being able to stay in their community and only 11% worried about having to live in a nursing home.
- We asked about how concerned they would be about becoming socially isolated or feeling lonely if they needed help with basic living activities. People with higher incomes are less concerned than lower income individuals about becoming socially isolated and lonely and older people are less concerned than younger people.
- One out of three 70 years old and older baby boomers would prefer hiring someone if they became disabled, while only one in four of the 60 to 79 year olds would prefer to purchase care. This is not surprising since affordability was viewed as the biggest challenge to purchasing care among all respondents, including 55% of the wealthiest baby boomers. But the younger baby boomers have significantly lower incomes and report fewer retirement resources. This is really a concern for the boomers with incomes less than $30,000 because fewer of them are married, have family to live with, and have resources to purchase care should they become disabled.
- When asked, “what would worry you most about hiring someone,” wealthier baby boomers were twice as likely than those with lower incomes to indicate that they would be most concerned about the caregiver not being able to meet their needs. Previous studies have shown us that wealthier older adults have higher expectations than lower income people; this survey underscores the fact that providers need to pay attention to the skills and competencies of their staff so that they can, in fact, meet the needs and preferences of their life plan community residents and provide competitive staffing in their home and community-based services.
- Internet use among boomers is relatively high, at 82%, regardless of age and gender! Its use is higher, up to 95%, for the higher income bracket. However, communicating with all but the wealthiest may present a challenge for policy makers and planners (among others) since nearly a fifth report no internet at home. For those in the lowest income group, a third have no internet at home. Increasingly, older individuals are expecting internet access.
- A majority, 55% have a cell phone and a landline, this increases significantly with income. As expected, cell phone-only ownership declines with age, while landline-only ownership increases with age, regardless of gender. Higher income brackets are 13 times more likely to have a cell phone only, than a landline only, whereas low income individuals are almost twice as likely to have a landline only than a cell phone only.
- Social media use is also relatively high, 59% of older adults use social media one way or another. Usage is more prevalent among the lower income cohort.
Download the findings here.