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NEWS // April 13, 2017

Insight into aging: New national survey gauges hopes, fears & Perceptions

The senior population is growing at one of the fastest rates in American history, but about 70 percent of Americans over the age of 30 think the country is “a little or not at all prepared” to address the healthcare and social support needs of its senior population, according to a new national survey on aging released today by the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization focused on improving healthcare delivery for seniors, in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago.  

The survey of more than 3,000 adults was conducted to better understand of people’s hopes, fears and perceptions of aging during each decade of life after 30. These results were presented in March at the American Society of Aging’s 2017 Aging in America Conference in Chicago. 

“The survey found that there is common ground between age groups when it comes to people’s hopes and concerns, and what they think they will need to support them as they grow older,” said Zia Agha, MD, chief medical officer of the Health Institute. “Across the decades, a common thread remains, and that’s a strong desire to maintain independence and have access to comprehensive healthcare and supportive social services in the home and community.”

The study also reveals that when it comes to the aging experience, the public worries most about developing memory problems, facing health and financial issues and losing independence. For most adults, signs of old age are less about turning a specific age and more about maintaining independence and being able to take care of themselves. More than half of Americans over 30 report being mostly or somewhat optimistic about aging, and optimism is greatest among older adults. 

Two separate reports detail the findings from the 2016 survey. The first report, entitled Perceptions of Aging During Each Decade of Life After 30, shows that 70 percent of adults 30 and older feel the country is not prepared for the rapid growth of its senior population. In addition, the results illustrate that losing one’s memory, not having financial security and developing health issues are top concerns about aging whether people are in their 30s or 60s. 

The second report, entitled New Insights into America’s Views on Aging Successfully: Who Will Help an Aging America Stay Independent and Healthy? finds that older adults are more likely than younger adults to have positive views of the healthcare system and government programs for seniors. The results show that more than 7 in 10 Americans say it’s important that seniors have access to healthcare services, dental care, healthy food, affordable housing and transportation, but fewer than half say their communities are doing a good job in these areas. 

Funded by philanthropists Gary and Mary West, West Health includes the nonprofit and nonpartisan Gary and Mary West Health Institute and Live Well San Diego Recognized Partner the Gary and Mary West Foundation in San Diego, and the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center in Washington, D.C. These organizations are working together toward a shared mission dedicated to enabling seniors to successfully age in place with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.

More information about the survey and reports can be found at: