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A Crossroads of Perception: New Poll Reports Americans’ Expectations for Financial Preparedness, Aging in Place

Elderly woman holding hands with young woman outside

According to a new poll, from the Associated Press and the NORC at the University of Chicago, people over 40 may be carrying around some misperceptions about what it will really mean to grow older in America. Their responses play into larger debates over home care vs. senior living communities as the best places and ways to age.

Confidence in financial preparedness

The poll’s report reveals Americans are growing in their confidence to finance their own long-term care, from 27% in 2013 to 36% in 2016 expressing high confidence levels in their preparedness.

Older, healthier Americans who are better educated and wealthier report higher confidence in their financial preparedness to pay for long-term care. Women and those ages 40-55 express the least confidence overall.

Expectations for Medicare and Social Security

Those with household incomes less than $50,000 per year are more likely to expect they’ll rely on government programs for care. Above $50,000, that number drops to 3 out of 10. Regardless of income, the report states, the data reflects fairly widespread misperceptions about which long-term care services Medicare and Social Security will cover.

Many respondents to the poll expressed support for government policies to help caregivers manage the costs of providing long-term care.

  • 72% support state programs to provide paid family leave
  • 83% support tax breaks for caregivers
  • 73% support a Social Security earnings credit for those taking time away from work to provide care

Despite high support for government programs,

Preference for family caregivers

The poll reports 77% of Americans who expect to require long-term care would prefer to receive it in their own homes. Eighty percent of those currently providing care for a loved one or family member in their own home say that’s where they prefer to be.

Those with long-term care experience are twice as likely to feel prepared to provide it again. Women are more likely to prefer a child as their caregiver. Men and those with higher incomes are more likely to prefer a spouse or partner.

There’s one caveat to widespread preferences for home care from a family member or friend. Those who have provided care in the past were least likely to see the experience in a positive light. They were also the most likely to say the experience caused stress, financial burden, and weakened personal relationships with the person they cared for.

At a crossroads of perception

Clear evidence points to the financial, emotional, and physical tolls the choice to age in place will inevitably take on individuals and family caregivers. So why are so many Americans determined to stay in their homes as they age? Before senior living communities and caregiving facilities can answer this question, perhaps they must first examine how the quality and costs of care they provide might rival the at-home experience in Americans’ minds.