WASHINGTON (AP) — The older you are, the less you worry about staying in your own home or community as you get older.
That’s a key insight from a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, which found that American adults aged 65 or older feel much better prepared to “aging in place” than those aged 50 to 64, most of whom are still in the home stretch of their working years.
The poll also documented greater insecurity around aging-in-place for older Blacks and Latinos, the likely result of a deep-rooted wealth gap that clearly favors whites.
Aging in one’s own home, or with family or a close friend, is a widely held aspiration, with 88% of adults 50 and older saying it is their goal in an earlier AP-NORC poll.
The outlook for people aged 65 or over is optimistic, with nearly 8 in 10 saying they are extremely or very willing to stay in their current home for as long as possible.
But doubts creep in for 50-64 year olds. Among this group, the majority who consider themselves extremely or very prepared narrows down to around 6 in 10, according to the poll.
This relatively younger group is particularly likely to say that their financial situation is the main reason they don’t feel very ready to age in place. And they are also more likely to feel anxious about being able to stay in their community, seek care from medical providers and receive support from family members or close friends, the survey found.
Part of this may be due to fear of the unknown among people who have relied on a paycheck all their lives.
“When you’ve never done it before and will only do it once, you kind of fly by the seat of your pants,” said Leigh Gerstenberger, in her late 60s and retired from a career in financial services. “I spent a lot of time talking to the people who came before me on the journey,” says the Pittsburgh-area resident.
Additionally, people approaching their 60s may wonder if Social Security and Medicare will really be there for them. Stacy Wiggins, an addictions nurse who lives near Detroit, thinks she’ll likely be working at least another 10 years in her late 60s — and maybe part-time after that. Older friends are already collecting social security.
“In my group, we wonder if it will be available”, Wiggins talked about government programs that support seniors. “Maybe not. You will find people less likely to have a traditional pension. These are things that leave you very apprehensive about the future.
Some people now in their 50s and early 60s may still be dealing with the overhang of the 2007-09 recession, when unemployment peaked at 10% and foreclosures soared, said Sarah Szanton, dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. For an aging society, the United States is doing relatively little to prepare older people to navigate the transition to retirement, she observed.
“As Americans, we have always idolized youth and are notoriously underprepared to think about aging,” said Szanton. “That often surprises people.” Her involvement with aging-in-place issues began early in her career, when she made home visits to elderly people.
In the survey, people aged 50 and over indicated that their communities do an uneven job of meeting basic needs. While access to health care, healthy food and high-speed internet were generally rated highly, only 36% said their community was doing a good job of providing affordable housing. Only 44% were satisfied with access to transportation and services that support older people at home.
Kym Harrelson-Pattishall hopes that as more people retire in her coastal North Carolina community, health care facilities and other services will follow. As things stand, a major medical issue can involve a car ride of up to an hour to the hospital.
A realtor in his early 50s, Pattishall shares the goal of aging in place, but his confidence level isn’t high. “I think it would just eat away at my savings,” she says.
It’s all about the fit, says another small-town resident, about 20 years older than Pattishall. Shirley Hayden lives in Texas, near the Louisiana border and on the trail of Gulf of Mexico hurricanes. She says she has no investments and only modest savings, but she considers herself very ready to continue aging in place.
“You have to learn to live within your means” said Hayden. “I don’t charge for things I can’t afford.
“My biggest thing I have to work around when it comes to expenses is insurance,” she added. “I don’t really need new clothes. In Texas you live in jeans and t-shirts and they never go out of fashion. Yes, your shoes wear out, but how often do you buy a pair of shoes? »
Getting around the well-documented racial wealth gap that constrains black seniors in particular is not so easy. A Federal Reserve report notes that, on average, black and Latino households own 15-20% more net worth than white households.
In the poll, 67% of black Americans and 59% of Latinos ages 50 and older said they felt extremely or very willing to stay home as long as possible, compared to 73% of white Americans. saying confident.
Wiggins, the Detroit-area nurse, is black and says it’s a pattern she knows. “It’s partly the generational wealth”, she says. “I have friends who are white, whose father died and left them settled. I have black friends whose parents died, and they left enough to bury them, but nothing substantial.
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The AP-NORC survey of 1,762 adults aged 50 and over was conducted between February 24 and March 1 with funding from the SCAN Foundation. He used a sample drawn from NORC’s Foresight 50+ probability panel of adults 50 or older, designed to represent the US population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.