Aging in Place in America research study (2023)

published byPositive Aging Handbookem 13/08/2018


CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee – Seniors fear moving into a nursing home and losing their independence more than death, according to a new research study, "Aging in Place in America," commissioned by Clarity® and The EAR Foundation, which examines the attitudes and anxieties of the country's elderly population. Children of the elderly also fear for their parents, with particular concern for their emotional and physical well-being if they have to enter a nursing home.

This is the third in a series of studies since 2003 commissioned by a partnership of Clarity and The EAR Foundation to better understand the health and lifestyle needs of the aging American population. For “Aging in Place in America,” two groups were surveyed to allow for a comparative analysis of the attitudes of those age 65 and older living at home with those of Baby Boomers with older parents.

One of the study's most significant findings is that when asked what they fear most, seniors ranked losing independence (26%) and moving to a nursing home (13%) as their biggest fears. These two possibilities are a much bigger concern than death, which was the biggest fear of only 3% of seniors.

Other important discoveries include:

The vast majority of seniors (89%) want to age in place, or age without having to leave their home, and more than half (53%) are concerned about their ability to do so.
The vast majority (82%) of Baby Boomers fear their parents will be abused in a nursing home, and 89% fear being sad.
Seniors who live at home are determined to maintain their independence; they report demanding and receiving limited support from their children or other caregivers.
Boomers are not only concerned about their aging parents, but nearly two-thirds (63%) give them some form of help or support.
Half of seniors are open to using new technologies to enable independence, including installing sensors in their homes to monitor their health.
Baby Boomers didn't turn to technology to help their aging parents. Only 14% sought solutions to help ensure their parents' health and safety.

"These findings tell us that, above all else, older Americans value their ability to live independently," said Peter Bell, president of the National Council on Local Aging. “As a society, we must find ways to help our parents and grandparents live out their final years at home. We must make aging in place a national priority and a reality for older Americans."

The elderly express the desire to age in place, they are not asking for help

The study found that the vast majority of seniors (89%) feel that the ability to age in place, or to live independently and remain at home, is very important. However, more than half of respondents (53%) are concerned about their ability to do so.

The elderly mentioned three main concerns that could compromise their ability to live independently: health problems (53%); memory problems (26%); and inability to drive and/or move (23%). They said they don't expect or receive much support from those around them. Most elderly people (55%) consider themselves to be very independent in the sense of not receiving help from their children and seem to be content with that fact. The vast majority (75%) said their children are “enough” involved in their lives.
Elderly people who need help from third parties receive help with housekeeping (20%), transportation (13%) and medical assistance (8%). Very few (1%) reported receiving any financial support.

Seniors open to new solutions

The study also examined older people's attitudes towards technologies that enable independent living. Virtually all seniors are comfortable using the telephone, while nearly half of seniors are comfortable using personal computers, the Internet, and email. Not surprisingly, seniors' comfort level with computer technology declines in older age groups, particularly those over 75.

Additionally, 65% of seniors said they are open to or would like to use new technologies that enable independence. More than half (54%) would consider using environmental technology in their homes, specifically sensors, to monitor their health and safety.

“Seniors are clearly more open to technology than many people realize,” Trads said. “They are very comfortable with familiar devices like the phone and will even try new technologies like sensors if it helps them age. We must see technology as a resource for our aging parents and grandparents, whether that means expanding the capabilities of familiar technologies or introducing new solutions into the home.”

Boomers concerned about the physical and emotional well-being of aging parents

The study also examined the attitudes of Baby Boomers who have at least one living parent to assess their attitudes and concerns, compared to older people. Baby Boomers echoed seniors' desires and concerns about aging in place and independent living. The vast majority (94%) feel it is important for their older parents to be able to age in their place. However, over three-quarters (79%) are concerned about their parents' ability to do this and over half (57%) are very concerned.

Baby Boomers are extremely concerned about their parents' well-being if they have to move house. Eighty-two percent (82%) fear their parents could be abused if they move into a nursing home. And 89% fear their parents will be saddened by their loss of independence, and 79% say they fear their parents won't like living in a nursing home. In addition, 70% are concerned that their parents are afraid of moving house.

“We are all concerned about our parents' quality of life as they age; however, this study sheds light on the enormous amount of anxiety that baby boomers experience, in particular, around this issue,” explained Chris Dutton, marketing communications manager at Clarity. “They are concerned that Mum and Dad will be forced into a nursing home and that their quality of life will deteriorate. They are dealing with the worry that their parents are sad, lonely, scared or worse, mistreated.”

The health of their parents is another top concern for Baby Boomers, with 77% citing this in the survey. Boomers also said they were concerned about the possibility of falls/injuries (75%) and their parents' ability to drive (58%).

“These are emotionally charged questions that Boomers and Seniors face every day,” said Dutton. “Baby Boomers not only have their parents to worry about, but like the Sandwich Generation, they are raising their own families, providing support to everyone in their lives, and in turn dealing with an increasing amount of stress.” .

In keeping with their expressed concern for their parents' well-being, most Boomers are unconcerned that their parents might one day be a burden to them. More than half (51%) are not concerned about having to financially support their parents and 60% are not concerned about their parents having to move with them.

Two out of three boomers helping older parents

Boomers are not only concerned about their aging parents, but the majority (63%) are actively involved in providing some form of help or assistance. Like the Sandwich Generation, Boomers are tasked with caring for and supporting their own children and parents; more than half of Boomers surveyed have children under the age of 25.

“Boomers are dealing with a lot of responsibilities, raising their children and taking care of their parents at the same time,” said Trads. “It is important that Boomers have help and support to successfully manage their caregiving role. Outside sources such as technology can help Boomers provide the support their parents need to stay at home.”

Home maintenance (40%), transportation (34%), medical issues (33%), help with financial decisions (28%) and, finally, financial support (19%) were the types of support most frequently reported by Boomers.

Baby Boomers with children are more likely than those without children to provide non-financial assistance to their parents, including help with home maintenance, medical issues, and medication and transportation. Childless Baby Boomers are more likely than those with children to provide financial assistance to their parents, including making financial or purchasing decisions and providing financial support.

Boomers Didn't Turn to Technology to Help Parents

Like older people, Baby Boomers are open to new technologies that would help seniors age in place, but very few actively pursue these products. Half of Baby Boomers (49%) are interested in new technologies that help them monitor their parents' safety and well-being. Half of Baby Boomers (51%) also think there are technology products available to meet the needs of seniors and (50%) would be open to using environmental technology, specifically sensors, to monitor the health and safety of their elderly parents. Contrary to this expressed interest in technology, only 14% of Baby Boomers actually sought technology solutions to help ensure their parents' health and safety.
“From the iPod to the Blackberry, technology is such a common part of Baby Boomer life; however, they still haven't realized the potential benefit of technology to help care for their parents,” said Trads. "More technology solutions need to be developed to enable aging in place so Boomers and other caregivers have more options when trying to help our older Americans."

Acerca de “Aging in Place in America”

The survey was commissioned by the Clarity/EAR Foundation strategic alliance, which was formed to educate the public about the needs of the growing elderly population, including hearing loss and other disabilities. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm, Prince Market Research, a member of the Council of American Research Organizations. More than 800 seniors and baby boomers were interviewed. The survey methodology is designed to ensure that the results are accurate to within plus or minus 5% with a 95% confidence level.

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