Money Not the Key to Seniors' Quality of Life

Relationships with friends and family outweigh financial concerns among older Americans seeking fulfillment in their senior years.

When asked what is most important to maintaining a high quality of life in their senior years, staying connected to friends and family was the top choice of 4 in 10 seniors, ahead of having financial means (30 percent).

The importance of connectivity

More than half of seniors (53 percent) nationally indicate that being close to friends and family is important and only 15 percent report occasional feelings of isolation. Eighty-four percent of seniors nationally cite technology as important to their ability to connect with the world around them.

The survey finds that seniors are driven by a desire for connectedness.

Seniors who report experiencing feelings of isolation and depression express less optimism regarding their future health and quality of life compared with seniors nationally: 37 percent of isolated seniors believe their overall quality of life will get worse in the next five to 10 years (compared with 24 percent of all seniors), and 32 percent of isolated seniors believe their health will get worse, compared with 23 percent of all seniors.

Low-income seniors also face challenges. While they cite technology as important to staying in touch with family and friends (81 percent), issues of technology access persist.

With 47 percent of low-income seniors reporting cost as a barrier to using more technology, and 48 percent indicating they have trouble understanding how to use technology.

Taking care of health associated with optimistic outlook

The 2013 United States of Aging Survey finds that seniors have maintained a positive outlook on their future and the aging process. Eighty-six percent of seniors say they are confident about their ability to maintain a high quality of life, and 60 percent expect their health to stay the same during the next five to 10 years (compared with 53 percent of adults ages 18-59).

More than 4 in 10 (41 percent) say seeing their children and grandchildren grow up is the most exciting prospect of living a longer life. One-fifth say spending time with friends and family will be the best part of their bonus years.

The survey also finds that women and African Americans are among the most optimistic about growing older. Of the most optimistic seniors—those surveyed who expect their quality of life in the next five to 10 years to be “much better” or “somewhat better”—65 percent are women and 18 percent are African American, compared with the national sample comprising 55 percent women and 8 percent African Americans.

Seniors focused on taking care of their health are more optimistic about aging.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of optimistic seniors have set one or more specific goals to manage their health in the past 12 months, compared with 47 percent of the overall senior population.


Getting the most from more golden years

The survey finds that seniors themselves are casting doubt on the famous adage, “The older you get, the wiser you become.” While 19 percent of adults ages 18-59 believe aging means becoming wiser, only 9 percent of those ages 60 and older agree.

Perhaps that’s because both seniors and younger adults share the belief that “there’s no such thing as getting old” because “age is a state of mind,” statements with which 28 percent of seniors and 27 percent of adults aged 18-59 agree.