Growing Old: Expectations vs. Reality

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

This is a great report published recently by the Pew Research Center from their Social & Demographic Trends survey.

The data were gathered from a nationally representative sample of 2,969 adults. One of the most striking findings is the large gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves.

There is a lot of information in the report but some of the key conclusions are worth emphasizing here. I found it interesting that many negative aspects that younger people associate with aging are not reported with the expected frequency by the older cohorts. Most notably, illness, memory loss, and loneliness are significantly less prevalent than expected.

On the flip side, there are many positive aspects of aging that are expected by younger respondents that are also not as frequently reported in the survey. These include traveling, spending time with family and pursuing hobbies. While the downside of aging might not be as negative as anticipated, some of the positive aspects are not as certain as many would hope.

Another note of interest pertains to the question "At What Age does Old Age Begin"? Responses trended progressively later with increasing age of the respondents. That is, younger respondents feel that old age begins at a relatively early age and older respondents think it begins later.

You can read a more complete summary of the report here.

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