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Aging in North America:The Greatest Travesty?

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I am 60 years old and I can remember looking at the old people in my family and church, people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s and thinking and knowing that it would be cool to be that old when the time came. 

They had great peace in their lives . . . or so it seemed, (though I do think largely this was true), they had a lifetime worth of wisdom, and stories that made spending time with them a delightful and profitable experience. Some were well off and others lived very modest lives, but all seemed both settled and content with the lives they lived.

It is Weird But . . .

It is weird but this is no longer true. It is even more puzzling since 60 and 70 back then was, by just about any measure, a lot older than today. Sixty year olds weren’t taking up skydiving, running marathons, or starting new business enterprises. Because of the way the world is, there has without question never been a better time to be in the 60+ category.

And yet . . .

There has never been a time when getting old was more resented, disrespected, and dreaded. Here is the proof:

Survey Data - Hot Off the Press

Recently Aegis Living, a Seattle based senior living company, commissioned an internet survey of more than 2000 individuals aged 18+ to assess the countries' attitudes on aging. Here is what they found:

Fear of Aging:  45% of all adults agree that they are scared of aging:

  • 47% for Millenials
  • 51% for Gen X’ers
  • 43% for Boomers

On the flip side, 32% of Millenials actually say the look forward to aging.

Worry About Memory Loss: Over 70% of all adults worry about memory loss as they age:

  • 72% Millenials
  • 75% Gen X
  • 77% Boomers
  • 69% Silent Generation (It might be more, but the rest can’t remember . . . sorry a little bad SHF humor)

Men vs. Women

  • Women at 77% are more likely to worry about memory loss than men at 70%
  • The same is true for fear of aging: 48% for women and 41% for men.

Finally, parents with children under the age of 18 in the household are more likely to be fearful of aging than those without (50% vs. 43%, respectively).


The other thing they looked at was respect for older adults. Here is what the survey showed:

  • 82% of those surveyed agreed that older adults do not receive as much respect from younger adults today as was true in prior generations.
  • 12% say they don’t respect their elders as much as they should.
  • 77% of Millenials aknowledge older adults do not receive as much respect from younger adults as in the past.
  • Even worse 20% of Millenials admit they themselves do not respect their elders as much as they should.
  • Men at 15% are more likely than women at 9% to admit they don’t respect their elders as much as they should.

Survey Data

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Aegis Living from April 23-27, 2015 among 2,015 adults ages 18 and older. For complete research method, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact John Yeager at Aegis Living.

This data has sobering implications for all of us as we age and watch our elders’ age. It has sobering implications for all of us who are in the elder care business . . . senior living and beyond. I will explore some of those implications on Monday make that Tuesday . . . hope you have a happy Monday holiday.  


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