Insights of Seniors and Professionals on the United States of Aging

As our population ages, our communities are helping to provide services desired by seniors and family caregivers to improve their quality of life as they age.

In order to continue to improve programs and services and help caregivers meet the needs of seniors, we need to understand their viewpoints and what they feel is important for them to age successfully.

One way we can better understand aging issues and strive to improve our support of these issues is to ask them.

This is the fourth year that the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, The National Council on Aging and United Healthcare have collaborated to compile answers to several questions so that solutions can be created.

The study was compiled in early 2015 with 1,650 interviews of adults over 60 and professionals who work with them in roles such as the Area Agencies on Aging, physicians and pharmacists.

Aging Survey Results

Here are some of the questions and the results of those surveyed. How do you think you and your senior loved one would respond? Do you agree with these results?

How much do you agree with this statement? My Community offers older adults a good quality of life.

Older Adults       79%

Professionals      92%

When thinking about the next five to ten years, do you expect your overall quality of life to get much better, somewhat better, stay about the same, get somewhat worse or get much worse?

Much better/somewhat better

2015 = 16%

2014 = 28%

2013 = 21%

2012 = 30%

Compared to prior years, older adults are less likely to expect their quality of life to improve in the coming 5 to 10 years.

How prepared do you feel for the process of aging?

A greater percentage of older adults think that they are prepared for aging compared to the professionals/influencers, 86% versus 77%.

Older adults report anticipating needing more assistance with maintaining their home, home care or long term care and managing health and wellness. Professionals/influencers believe that they will need assistance with transportation, finances and then home care and health management.

(Older adult) Please tell me how satisfied you are today in each category. 

(Professional/influencer) How satisfied are you with how your community is meeting each of these needs for older adults?

There is a big gap in the overall satisfaction of specific items between older adults and professionals who work with this population. Those reporting very satisfied in each group for several factors are as follows:

Older adults’ satisfaction levels: 

Relationships with family/friends  95%

Housing situations                          95%

Physical health                              40%

Financial situations                        41%

Professionals/influencers satisfaction levels:

Relationships with family/friends  39%

Housing situations                         18%

Physical health                              21%

Financial situations                        11%

What are your five biggest concerns about aging?

There is also a dichotomy of concerns facing aging seniors between older adults and professionals who care for them.

The top five concerns for older adults are:

  1. Maintaining physical health
  2. Losing your memory
  3. Maintaining your mental health
  4. Managing chronic health conditions
  5. Living independently

The top five concerns for professionals/influencers:

  1. Protecting yourself from financial scams, financial fraud, and financial abuse
  2. Having access to affordable housing
  3. Losing your memory
  4. Living independently
  5. Getting to the pharmacy, shopping for groceries or running other errands

It is interesting to think that the concerns of professionals are primarily about things that can be fixed such as arranging home delivered meals, getting transportation, delivering medications, and helping to secure finances. While the seniors are more concerned about things that are much more difficult to easily resolve such as staying physically and mentally healthy.

Both groups are concerned about being able to live independently and loss of memory. When asked specifically what worries you about not being able to live independently, seniors responded that becoming a burden, not being able to drive, not being mobile, not being able to speak for yourself or make your own rules were major concerns.

One area where professionals are far more concerned than older adults is the likelihood of isolation – 27% vs. 8%.

How positive or optimistic would you consider yourself in general?

Both groups reported a high level of optimism about aging – 94% and 85%.

This is a good sign as we have learned from centenarians having a positive attitude has helped them all face life’s struggles and allowed them to successfully age.

Seniors and professionals/influencers state that support from family and community helps them stay positive. They also feel that when they are healthy, they are more positive.

What are some things you worry about now that you didn’t worry about when you were younger?

Heading the list of worries for older adults were:

  • Slipping or falling
  • Having enough money
  • Decreased vision
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Managing chronic health issues
  • Remembering important things
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Driving safely

Which of the following do you feel are the best ways to stay mentally sharp as you age?

Older Adults:

  • Positive attitude
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Read books
  • Stimulate brain with activities


  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain active social life
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Stimulate brain with activities
  • Read books

It is interesting to see how these two groups differ. What is important for each group depends on your perspective — whether you are the one involved with mental acuity or having research point you in a particular direction about which is best.

When asked if they are involved in learning a new skill to help them stay mentally sharp, seniors report that only 53% participate in any new activities.

Do you expect your health care costs to increase significantly, increase somewhat, stay about the same, decrease somewhat or decrease significantly in the next 5-10 years?

Both groups feel that their healthcare costs will increase with results similar to those in 2014.

How they will actually pay for this care yields different results. The older adults feel that they will be prepared to meet the cost of healthcare 81% compared to only 36% of the professionals/influencers.

Older adults surveyed report that they don’t need to see a doctor more than every few months and 74% feel they have good or excellent health currently.

Both groups feel that understanding their health benefits is a big obstacle to accessing healthcare but professionals/influencers report this problem at much greater rates than seniors (two to three times higher).

What are the keys to maintaining good health as you age?

Seniors report eating a healthy diet, maintaining a positive attitude, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and taking your medications as prescribed are the top five ways to stay healthy. Surprisingly, 2/3 of those surveyed reported exercising at least once a week and 1/3 said they exercised every day.

Professionals/influencers report eating a healthy diet, seeing your doctor regularly, exercising regularly, taking your medications as prescribed and getting support from family and friends as the top five ways to stay healthy.

How concerned are you that your savings and income will be sufficient to last the rest of your life?

Both groups are somewhat or very concerned. A higher cost of living and unexpected medical expenses are major concerns.

Professionals/influencers would like them to seek advice from financial experts and family members.

More than ¾ of the adults say they handle their own finances (77%). Only 3% of these seniors report seeking the advice of a financial planner.

Seniors feel that using senior discounts, sticking to a budget, saving, limiting leisure expenses and investing will help them manage their finances. Professionals/influencers believe that saving, working beyond retirement age, sticking to a budget, reducing housing costs and receiving financial support from other sources will help seniors manage their finances.

What do you think is the biggest age-related challenge communities will face in the next 5-10 years?

Professionals/influencers reply that lack of funding for services to support older adults is an overwhelming challenge. Seniors would like to see expansions in their community of organizations to help advocate for benefits. Both feel that improved transportation/public transportation is one of the most important things for aging. Seniors are in general satisfied with their community with the exception of public transportation. Professionals/influencer feel that lack of transportation is the greatest barrier to successful aging in place.

You can access the full United States of Aging Survey here.

Shaping Care by Family Caregivers

The survey highlights the fact that family and family caregivers provide the most important support system for aging seniors.

Older adults surveyed singled out young people as being less supportive of older adults than their generation was of their elders. They feel young people care more about themselves than others.

With the help of this report, family caregivers can help make plans for the future to help their seniors overcome some of these expressed barriers to aging in place.

As a nation, we can also urge for the creation and improvement of the necessary programs and infrastructure to assist our senior loved ones in maintaining their quality of life as they age.

This information is a good starting point for us all. Let’s build on the data to make a difference!