By Tom Sightings, Contributor, U.S. News & World Report, July 20, 2015
Individuals have different concerns than health and financial experts.
The National Council On Aging has conducted a survey of Americans age 60 and over, along with various professionals who work with the elderly, to assess the concerns and needs of America's aging population. As you might expect, many of the issues revolve around finances and health. But what is especially interesting is that the professionals, ranging from doctors to counselors to credit union managers, often expressed different views from regular people when it comes to issues that should be addressed.
Here are ten significant findings from the survey:
1. Maintaining good health. People are focused on maintaining their physical and mental health as they get older, and are particularly concerned about memory loss. Professionals are more worried about the financial lives of seniors as well as the accessibility of affordable housing.
2. False confidence. Older people have more confidence in themselves than professionals do. Only 10 percent of professionals think that seniors are "very prepared" to face old age, while over 40 percent of seniors feel they are reasonably well prepared for what lies ahead.
3. Staying in your current home.
Almost 60 percent of seniors have not changed residence in the last 20 years, and 75 percent say they "intend to live in their current home for the rest of their lives." However, the majority of seniors say they would like to see more services available to help them adapt their homes for their developing needs. Many people admit that they will need help maintaining their homes, but most of them do not believe that their communities have the ability to help them out.
4. Giving up driving.
Many people anticipate that they will have to give up driving as they get older, and so they want access to better public transportation. About a third of those surveyed said that providing better public transportation is the single most important thing their community could do to make it easier for them to get around.
5. Financial security.
Only about one in five people believe they will need support managing their finances as they get older. But professionals think otherwise. They say most older people will need help figuring out their finances, especially when it comes to medical bills.
6. Sudden bills.
Seniors worry about the constantly increasing cost of living, as well as a sudden and unexpectedly large medical expense. Professionals agree that an unexpected medical problem is the biggest concern for an aging population.
7. Cutting costs.
When looking to save money, people turn to senior discounts and try to limit expenses involving travel and vacation. Professionals take a longer term perspective. They recommend that more people consider working beyond retirement age to shore up their finances, and then take some serious steps to reduce their biggest ongoing expense, which is the cost of housing.
8. Social ties.
Many seniors complain about their tenuous financial position and their declining physical health. But most report that they are happy with their family and friends, as well as their housing situation.
9. Mental health. Everyone agrees it's important to exercise and eat healthy as we get older. It also helps to keep a positive attitude and stay active socially.
10. Social support. Some 60 percent of those surveyed say that young people today are less supportive of older people than their own generation was in previous years. Fewer than half of those surveyed say that their community is doing enough to fulfill the needs of retiring baby boomers.