No one knows what the future holds. But for Americans 60 years old and older, looking to the future becomes important as we must plan how we're going to spend our golden years. A retirement community? Move to the beach? Or maybe you're not planning to retire at all because you love your work and the way it fulfills you. A new survey released by the National Council on Aging, USA Today and UnitedHealthcare aims to find out what's plaguing the minds of today's seniors, where their confidences lie and how they feel about the future, the Huffington Post reports.
The study, titled the United States of Aging Survey, included 2,250 U.S. adults age 60 and older and asked questions related to many areas of life, such as transportation, health, financial security and housing.
Concerns about local community resources for aging adults
The results show that some participants are concerned about the resources available in their local communities to support an aging population. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) reported having "no confidence that these resources would be available over the next five to ten years." In relation to transportation, 34 percent of respondents say their communities lack "high-quality transportation," which can hinder older adults' ability to get around, especially if health problems prevent them from driving.
Respondents financially secure now, but the future holds uncertainties
Respondents indicate that they feel their current financial situation is stable, but also say they're uncertain how financially secure they'll remain in the coming years. About two-thirds of those responding say they're able to pay their current monthly bills at least fairly easily, and 71 percent say they could cover an unexpected expense if it were to arise.
Low-income earners less optimistic
The attitudes of survey respondents who fall into lower-income brackets were less enthusiastic:
- Among respondents with incomes of $30,000 per year or less, 22 percent say the housing options are available to them are unaffordable.
- Among respondents making $75,000 per year or more, just 7 percent say the same.
Positive outlook on quality of life and housing
Overall, three-fourths of respondents say they expect their quality of life to remain the same or get better over the next five to ten years. A vast majority (85 percent) say they believe they'll be able to remain in their current homes without the need to make significant modifications over that same time frame.
USA Today says this positive attitude, which sits in stark contrast to the overall national mood about financial security, could be due to the fact that the current group of Baby Boomers hitting retirement "dodged a bullet," according to William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution. Members of this group typically managed to escape the workforce before employers did away with pension plans and matching 401(k) contributions, so they're still able to rely on many of those assets that up-and-coming demographics may miss out on.
Still, the upbeat attitudes reported in this survey surprised even Nick Crofoot, vice president of the market research firm that conducted the survey, Washington, D.C.-based Penn Schoen Berland. Crofoot feels that some of these results indicate that Americans are a little over-optimistic about their realities and futures, not wanting to believe that the future could be worse for them financially or in terms of health and happiness.
Ken Dychtwald, gerontologist, author and CEO of Age Wave, an aging-focused consulting agency, says, "We live in a society where we're led to believe young people are happy, content, resilient, fun and cool, and once you reach 60, all of that evaporates and you become unhappy, sick. That's simply wrong. It's a misperception, a misunderstanding and profound misrepresentation. … Turns out, young people these days are the most anxious, most depressed, and the 60-76 are the most resilient, most financially protected."
What are your thoughts on today's 60-and-over crowd? Are they being overly optimistic about the future or simply appreciating what they have and what they've accomplished? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.