The United States of Aging Survey of 2015 and other sources of information show that seniors are optimistic. The bad news from this rosy finding is that they may be too much so.
The survey, a joint effort of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the National Council on Aging, and United Healthcare, asked Americans over age 60 and professionals who serve them what their major concerns and perceptions were about the future prospects of the older generations.
Barely over half of seniors believed that exercise and keeping a positive attitude help stave off mental decline, while fully 72% of professionals emphasized the role of exercise in doing so.
There was not much difference between the professionals’ concerns and those of seniors when it came to memory retention. Respectively, surveyed professionals and seniors deemed it a top concern, at 38% and 35%. Professionals worry most about where seniors will live and how they will finance their futures. Seniors are more concerned with the soundness of their physical and mental health.
Professionals have their opinions about these subjects, too. They believe that to maintain physical and mental health, seniors must be concerned with diet, attitude, and enough sleep, with which most seniors agree, but professionals put more emphasis on seeing doctors and taking proper medications. Ninety percent of professionals endorsed doctor care and 89% endorsed proper medication as being keys to good health. Only 62% of seniors agreed that good health required plenty of doctor’s visits, and only 63% agreed that proper medications were a requirement for good health.
Barely over half of seniors believed that exercise and keeping a positive attitude help stave off mental decline, while fully 72% of professionals emphasized the role of exercise in doing so. Professionals also say (at 58%) that social activities are important to keep the mind sharp.
Almost half of seniors are confident they will be able to pay for future medical expenses, but only 3% of professionals agree with them.
When it comes to finances, professionals are much more worried than are seniors. Professionals believe (87%) that unanticipated medical expenses could completely derail many seniors’ lives. Almost half of seniors are confident they will be able to pay for future medical expenses, but only 3% of professionals agree with them. What’s more, 84% of professionals fear that seniors will not have enough disposable income in their latter years, whereas only 18% of seniors seem concerned about this.
These findings compare alongside other reports on Baby Boomers’ financial realities and their perceptions of these realities. A 2013 survey by TD Ameritrade showed that almost three quarters of Baby Boomers intended for Social Security to be the mainstay of their retirement income. At the same time, Kate Davidson reported in a 2015 article (see footnote below) that most Baby Boomers anticipate an income of about $45,000 per annum after they retire. However, the amounts they reported they had saved translated to less than $10,000 per year.
As seniors invest in their own physical and mental health, they would do well to invest in their financial health as well. Concerning finances, it seems, Baby Boomers are mostly off the mark in their personal assessments, compared to what the professionals believe about their future well being.
There’s nothing wrong with seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Yet a little dose of realism from professional opinions might be in order.
The National Council on Aging. The 2015 United States of Aging Survey, National Findings. Available online at
Brooks, Rodney (January, 29, 2013). Boomer’s Average Nest Egg is $500,000 short. CNBC, Personal Finance. Available online at: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100415637.
Davidson, Kate. (October 26, 2015). Baby Boomers Hugely Underestimate What They Need for Retirement. Available online at: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/10/26/baby-boomers-hugely-underestimate-what-they-need-for-retirement/.