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The More You Know: Older Baby Boomers’ Preferences on Aging

Safety. Being around family. Having access to the outdoors. Affordability. These are just a few key findings in a new noteworthy study from LeadingAge and NORC. 

In a quest to better understand older adults’ attitudes and expectations around quality of life and aging, particularly if they become physically or cognitively impaired and need long term services and supports, LeadingAge and NORC surveyed a representative sample of 1200 older adults between the ages of 60 and 72. Selected because they are more likely to have peers who may already be experiencing the need for help with activities of daily living and can more easily imagine themselves in that position, the survey asked older boomers to imagine they had a physical or cognitive impairment and needed help. 

Results from this study revealed preferences in key areas, such as where they want to live (their own home vs. a place with professional caregivers) and who should care for them (family vs. a professional, paid caregiver), based on age as well as on income.

“In just over one decade, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65 and they will have a 50:50 chance of needing some paid long-term services and supports,” says Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO, LeadingAge. “Older baby boomers have had a lot of choices all their lives and are expecting a full continuum of services, including home care, other community-based supports, affordable housing with services, assisted living, and care centers. Policy makers, politicians, government and business leaders, as well as the general American population, need to be aware of the potential impact of the demographic changes currently under way in the U.S.”

Key findings include:

  • People understand that there are circumstances where aging in place may not be right for them. 40 percent said they would want to live somewhere other than their current home or apartment if they had a physical disability that required them to need help with daily activities. Most earlier studies and surveys report that the majority (76 percent or more) of adults say they want to stay in their own home.
  • 14 percent said they’d move to a place that is staffed to provide health care plus help with daily activities if they needed help because of a physical disability. When asked where they would want to live if they needed help due to dementia, that number grew to 42 percent.
  • Even with physical disability and a need for help with daily activities, 60 percent of respondents said they would prefer remaining in their current home or apartment. That percentage dropped to 29 percent if they had dementia and a need for help with daily activities -- far lower than has been reported in other surveys of all adults.
  • When asked what worries them most if they were to need long-term services and support, the biggest worry by far was becoming a burden on family members. Only 10 percent of respondents worried about not being able to stay in their community and only 11 percent worried about having to live in a care center.
  • One out of three 70 years old and older baby boomers would prefer hiring someone if they became disabled, while only one in four of the 60 to 79-year old age group would prefer to purchase care.
  • People with higher incomes are less concerned about becoming social isolated of feeling lonely if they needed help with basic living activities than lower income individuals.
  • Affordability was viewed as the biggest challenge to purchasing care among all respondents, including 55 percent of the wealthiest baby boomers. But the younger baby boomers have significantly lower incomes and report fewer retirement resources.

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