While finances are a hot senior living topic, multiple research studies have shown that financial well-being and material wealth are not the most important factors in living well. So, when the United States of Aging Survey asked seniors “what is most important to maintaining a high quality of life?” it’s no surprise that staying connected to family and friends was the most popular choice for four in 10 seniors.
Searching for Happiness
The problem with determining what makes a life well-lived is that the definition of happiness changes depending on the individual and their values, goals and cultural beliefs. This year, U.S. News rated the countries they believe offer the best quality of life to their citizens. Citizens in Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and Norway have, according to this report, the best quality of life.
According to Business Insider, “if you regularly remark about how happy, safe and satisfied you feel in your personal and professional lives, you most likely have a pretty high quality of life.” Based on these factors, Business Insider has rated the following U.S. cities tops for their quality of life: Bellevue, Washington, Alexandria, Virginia, and Plano, Texas.
However, whether these cities offer the best quality of life for seniors is another matter —the United States of Aging Survey compared a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18-59 with 4,000 U.S. adults who were 60 and older, and the results showed that each demographic had very different ideas on aging and quality of life.
Ultimately, where you live doesn’t necessarily impact your quality of life, nor does your financial situation (although the United States of Aging Survey did note that low income seniors had a more difficult time in some important areas like connecting through technology and health).
So, what’s the biggest factor to a senior’s quality of life?
Family Is Everything
Seniors in America are driven by a desire to be close to their families, the United States of Aging Survey found. “More than half of seniors (53 percent) nationally indicate that being close to friends and family is important.” Technology, rather than physical proximity, is an important element in staying connected with family. “Eighty-four percent of seniors nationally cite technology as important to their ability to connect with the world around them,” the survey showed.
In fact, with seniors living longer, they’re using their “‘bonus years” (defined as the years they live beyond the average U.S. life expectancy of 78) to spend time with family, the survey found. Of the senior respondents in the survey:
- “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”
- “18 percent say they are excited to have more time to do the things they enjoy”
Health an Important Factor
It’s not surprising that the survey found that health was a greater factor to a senior’s quality of life than money, but it is surprising to see how optimistic seniors are about their health. Sixty percent of seniors “expect their health to stay the same during the next five to 10 years (compared with 53 percent of adults aged 18-59).” This optimism prevails despite the survey findings, which showed that:
- “65 percent of seniors report having at least two chronic health conditions”
- “Less than one in five seniors has received guidance in the past year to develop an action plan for managing their health”
- “26 percent of seniors nationally indicate they exercise less than once a week for 30 minutes or more”
- “74 percent of low-income seniors report at least one barrier to managing their health condition, such as lack of energy or money”
So, while seniors in America may feel their quality of life is high (and that health plays an important role in their quality of life), the reality is that many seniors are overly optimistic about their health situation. While senior living experts have focused of late on the financial situation of American seniors, the results of the United States of Aging Survey show that seniors may also be overly optimistic about their health, a factor that ranks higher in their perceived quality of life.
You can access the full United States of Aging Survey here.