Aging Survey: Friends, Family Trump Wealth

Relationships with friends and family are more important to older Americans than any financial concerns, according to the second annual United States of Aging Survey. When asked what is most important to maintaining a high quality of life in their senior years, staying connected to friends and family was the top choice of four in 10 seniors, ahead of having financial means (30 percent).

The United States of Aging Survey, the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA TODAY surveyed 4,000 U.S. adults including a nationally representative sample of seniors ages 60 and older. What were the top findings, besides the key role friends and family play in contributing to happiness?

* Technology bridges isolation
Only 15 percent of seniors said they experienced occasional feelings of isolation. Eighty-four percent of seniors cited technology as important to their ability to connect with the world around them. But income matters in how much technology they use. Forty-seven percent of low-income seniors said cost was a barrier to technology use, and 48 percent said they have trouble understanding how to use technology.

* Attitudes about health
Eighty-six percent of seniors were confident about their ability to maintain a high quality of life, and 60 percent expect their health to stay the same during the next five to 10 years (compared with 53 percent of adults ages 18-59). Women and African Americans are among the most optimistic about growing older.

* Communities not doing enough to support seniors
Most seniors (71 percent) feel the community they live in is responsive to their needs, but less than half (49 percent) believe their city or town is doing enough to prepare for their future needs. Twenty-six percent say their city or town should invest in better public transportation, and 23 percent say their city or town should invest more in affordable health care services and housing.

* The economics of retirement and living longer
Nearly half (47 percent) of retired seniors have access to pensions, and among seniors who are not yet retired, 41 percent plan to rely on Social Security as their primary source of retirement income. In contrast, just 23 percent of adults ages 18-59 plan to rely primarily on Social Security. Forty-eight percent of adults ages 18-59 say they will live mostly off of their personal savings and investments in their senior years.

While most seniors are able to pay their monthly expenses, many are concerned about the financial impact of living longer. More than half (53 percent) were "somewhat to very concerned" that their savings and income wouldn't be enough to last them for the rest of their life.

* Getting the most from more golden years
With life expectancies on the rise and the centenarian population set to boom, the survey found that what seniors were most looking forward to in their “bonus years” (years they may live beyond the average U.S. life expectancy of 78) was spending more time with their children and grandchildren.



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