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The concept of growing old in america

Growing Old in America: Nor is it quite as good. These disparities come into sharpest focus when survey respondents are asked about a series of negative benchmarks often associated with aging, such as illness, memory loss, an inability to drive, an end to sexual activity, a struggle with loneliness and depression, and difficulty paying bills. In every instance, older adults report experiencing them at lower levels often far lower than younger adults report expecting to encounter them when they grow old.

These generation gaps in perception also extend to the most basic question of all about old age: When does it begin? Survey respondents ages 18 to 29 believe the concept of growing old in america the average person becomes old at age 60.

Middle-aged respondents put the threshold closer to 70, and respondents ages 65 and above say that the average person does not become old until turning 74.

Other potential markers of old age—such as forgetfulness, retirement, becoming sexually inactive, experiencing bladder control problems, getting gray hair, having grandchildren—are the subjects of similar perceptual gaps. Less than half of all adults ages 30 and older agree.

However, a handful of potential markers—failing health, an inability to live independently, an inability to drive, difficulty with stairs—engender agreement across all generations about the degree to which they serve as an indicator of old age.

In fact, it shows that the older people get, the younger they feel—relatively speaking. Among 18 to 29 year-olds, about half say they feel their age, while about quarter say they feel older than their age and another quarter say they feel younger.

Nearly half of all survey respondents ages 50 and older say they feel at least 10 years younger than their chronological age. Among respondents ages 65 to 74, a third say they feel 10 to 19 years younger than their age, and one-in-six say they feel at least 20 years younger than their actual age. In sync with this upbeat way of counting their felt age, older adults also have a count-my-blessings attitude when asked to look back over the full arc of their lives.

All other age groups also tilt positive, but considerably less so, when asked to assess their lives so far against their own expectations. The Downside of Getting Old To be sure, there are burdens that come with old age. About one-in-four adults ages 65 and older report experiencing memory loss. About one-in-five say they have a serious illness, are not sexually active, or often feel sad or depressed.

About one-in-six report they are lonely or have trouble paying bills. But when it comes to these and other potential problems related to old age, the share of younger and middle-aged adults who report expecting to encounter them is much higher than the share of older adults who report actually experiencing them.

Moreover, these problems are not equally shared by all groups of older adults. Those with low incomes are more likely than those with high incomes to face these challenges.

The only exception to this pattern has to do with sexual inactivity; the likelihood of older adults reporting a problem in this realm of life is not correlated with income. Not surprisingly, troubles associated with aging accelerate as adults advance into their 80s and beyond.

It no doubt helps that adults in their late 80s are as likely as those in their 60s and 70s to say that they are experiencing many of the good things associated with aging—be it time with family, less stress, more respect or more financial security.

The Upside of Getting Old When asked about a wide range of potential benefits of old age, seven-in-ten respondents ages 65 and older say they are enjoying more time with their family.

About two-thirds cite more time for hobbies, more financial security and not having to work.

Overview and Executive Summary

About six-in-ten say they get the concept of growing old in america respect and feel less stress than when they were younger. Just over half cite more time to travel and to do volunteer work. Of all the good things about getting old, the best by far, according to older adults, is being able to spend more time with family members.

People Are Living Longer These survey findings come at a time when older adults account for record shares of the populations of the United States and most developed countries. These ratios will put the U. Contacting Older Adults Any survey that focuses on older adults confronts one obvious methodological challenge: A small but not insignificant share of people 65 and older are either too ill or incapacitated to take part in a 20-minute telephone survey, or they live in an institutional setting such as a nursing home where they cannot be contacted.

To mitigate this problem, the survey included interviews with more than 800 adults whose parents are ages 65 or older. Not surprisingly, the portrait of old age they draw is somewhat more negative than the one painted by older adult respondents themselves. We present a summary of these second-hand observations at the end of Section I in the belief that the two perspectives complement one another and add texture to our report.

The most common explanation offered by respondents of all ages has to do with differences in morality, values and work ethic. Relatively few cite differences in political outlook or in uses of technology.

When Does Old Age Begin? But as noted above, this average masks a wide, age-driven variance in responses. More than half of adults under 30 say the average person becomes old even before turning 60. Moreover, gender as well as age influences attitudes on this subject. Women, on average, say a person becomes old at age 70. Men, on average, put the number at 66. In addition, on all 10 of the non-chronological potential markers of old age tested in this survey, men are more inclined than women to say the marker is a proxy for old age.

The average response from our survey respondents is 89. A 2002 AARP survey found that the average desired life span was 92. Among all adults ages 65 and older, nine-in-ten talk with family or friends every day. About eight-in-ten read a book, newspaper or magazine, and the same share takes a prescription drug daily. Three-quarters watch more than a hour of television; about the same share prays daily. Nearly two-thirds drive a car. Less than half spend time on a hobby.

About four-in-ten take a nap; about the same share goes shopping. Roughly one-in-four use the internet, get vigorous exercise or have trouble sleeping. As adults move deeper into their 70s and 80s, daily activity levels diminish on most fronts—especially when it comes to exercising and driving.

On the other hand, daily prayer and daily medication both increase with age. Are Older Adults Happy? And perhaps more importantly, the same factors that predict happiness among younger adults—good health, good friends and financial security—by and large predict happiness among older adults.

Among all older adults, happiness varies very little by age, gender or race. Retirement and Old Age. Retirement is a place without clear borders. Whatever the fuzziness around these definitions, one trend is crystal clear from government data 3: After falling steadily for decades, the labor force participate rate of older adults began to trend back upward about 10 years ago.

In the Pew Research survey, the average retiree is 75 years old and retired at age 62. However, many living patterns change as adults advance into older age. About three-quarters say they have someone they can talk to when they have a personal problem; six-in-ten say they have someone they can turn to for help with errands, appointments and other daily activities.

Just four-in-ten adults ages 65-74 use the internet on a daily basis, and that share drops to just one-in-six among adults 75 and above.

Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality

By contrast, three-quarters of adults ages 18-30 go online daily. The generation gap is even wider when it comes to cell phones and text messages. Religion and Old Age. Religion is a far bigger part of the lives of older adults than younger adults. Family Relationships Staying in Touch with the Kids. Mothers and daughters are in the most frequent contact; fathers and daughters the least.

Sons fall in the middle, and they keep in touch with older mothers and fathers at equal rates.

  1. Two groups were made up of adults ages 65 and older; two others were made up of adults with parents ages 65 and older.
  2. Religion and Old Age. In every instance, older adults report experiencing them at lower levels often far lower than younger adults report expecting to encounter them when they grow old.
  3. We present a summary of these second-hand observations at the end of Section I in the belief that the two perspectives complement one another and add texture to our report.
  4. The Downside of Getting Old To be sure, there are burdens that come with old age.
  5. Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.

Was the Great Bard Mistaken? Through the centuries, other poets and philosophers have observed that parents and children often reverse roles as parents grow older.

Not so, says the Pew Research survey. Responses to this question from children of older parents are broadly similar. Intergenerational Transfers within Families.

Despite these reported patterns of non-reliance, older parents and their adult children do help each other out in a variety of ways. However, the perspectives on these transfers of money and time differ by generation.

The intra-family accounting comes out quite differently from the perspective of adult children. There are similar difference in perception, by generation, about who helps whom with errands and other daily activities. To be clear, the survey did not interview specific pairs of parents and children; rather, it contacted random samples who fell into these and other demographic categories. Not surprisingly, as parents advance deeper into old age, both they and the adult children who have such parents report that the balance of assistance tilts more toward children helping parents.

Conversations about End-of-Life Matters. Similar shares of adult children of older parents report having had these conversations. About the Survey Results for this report are from a telephone survey conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,969 adults living in the continental United States. A combination of landline and cellular random digit dial RDD samples were used to cover all adults in the continental United States who have access to either a landline or cellular telephone.

In addition, oversamples of adults 65 and older as well as blacks and Hispa nics were obtained. The black and Hispanic oversamples were achieved by oversampling landline exchanges with more black and Hispanic residents as well as callbacks to blacks and Hispanics interviewed in previous surveys. A total of 2,417 interviews were completed with respondents contacted by landline telephone and 552 with those contacted on their cellular phone.

The data are weighted to produce a final sample that is representative of the general population of adults in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted Feb. There were 2,969 interviews, including 1,332 with respondents 65 or older.

The older respondents included 799 whites, 293 blacks and 161 Hispanics.