Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Growing Old in America: Expectations versus Reality

The Pew Research Center recently published the results of a phone survey of 2,969 adults. This survey investigated people's perceptions about aging. Four age groups were studied: 18-29; 30-49; 50-64; and 65+. This study found that older adults experienced fewer of the negative benchmarks of old age (illness, memory loss, depression) than younger adults reported that they expect to happen as they grow old. However, older adults also reported having fewer of the expected benefits of old age, such as having more time for hobbies or traveling more.

Other highlights of the study include:
  • 60% of adults 65 and older say they feel younger than their age.
  • 45% of adults 75 and older report that their life has turned out better than they expected, while only 5% stated that it turned out worse than they expected.
  • 70% of older adults 65 and older say that they have more time with their family.
  • 80% of adults aged 65 and older reported reading a book, magazine, or newspaper daily.
  • men and women have similar expectations about growing older.
The full study can be accessed online here.

There were also regional differences in how older adults view aging. Older adults from the western part of the United States reported feeling younger and healthier than older adults in other parts of the United State. However, 63% of older adults in the northeast and the south reported that they get more respect as they age, compared to only 44% in the west. For more information on regional differences, please see this Pew Research report.

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