Even as the economy begins to recover, Massachusetts residents age 50+ say health care and economic issues remain the largest challenges for people as they get older, according to a new AARP survey, recently released. While many aspire to take long vacations and travel (41%), as well as spend time on hobbies and interests (25%) in the future, the vast majority do not have all the resources they need today to accomplish their most important goals. At the top of their lists: staying healthy (98%), staying mentally sharp (95%), having adequate health insurance (94%), and spending time with family and friends (88%).
“While it’s not surprising that health care and economic issues are top-of-mind concerns for our 50+ residents, it is alarming that so few have what they need to achieve basic goals like staying healthy,” says Deborah Banda, state director of AARP Massachusetts, which serves more than 800,000 members age 50 and older in the Bay State. “For AARP, these results spotlight the areas where we can most help people to bridge the gap through information, education, state and federal advocacy, and community service.”
Other top concerns for Massachusetts residents age 50+: having money to meet daily expenses (92%), making sure retirement finances are adequate (89%) and allow them to live comfortably (88%), having quality long-term care options when needed (85%), and affording the cost of health care and prescription drugs (83%).
Massachusetts residents age 50+ also say Social Security (85%) and Medicare (88%) are extremely or very important to them, and are apprehensive about the programs meeting their needs. In March, as an extension of its work for more than 50 years, AARP launched a major campaign to engage in a conversation with members and the public about how to strengthen Social Security for future generations. The organization also continues its work to protect Medicare, and make health care more affordable.
Spotlight on Issues
The new AARP survey, “ Voices of 50+ Massachusetts: Dreams & Challenges”, explores a variety of topics to get a good snapshot of Bay State residents age 50 and older, and to inform AARP’s work. In addition to probing about top concerns and future aspirations, the survey delves into a driver of rising health care costs, prescription drugs; it also takes a closer look at long-term care, community concerns, and state government:
- Health Care: The high cost of prescription drugs continues to take its toll. Eighty percent of the 50+ population surveyed in Massachusetts have taken prescription drugs in the past year, and the majority (67%) has had a major problem paying for their medication. A recent AARP Rx Price Watch Report found that retail prices for drugs used widely by people on Medicare increased by 8.3 percent, while the general rate of inflation decreased.
- Long-Term Care: One in three (31%) of 50+ residents in Massachusetts say they have needed long-term care services in the past five years for themselves, a spouse or a family member. Still, only 11 percent say they are extremely confident that they could afford to pay for such services for three years, if needed. These costs may include: $17,000 yearly for adult day health care, five days a week; $11,000 yearly for in home care, two hours a day for five days a week; and/or $84,000 yearly for full-time nursing home care.
- State Government: In the current economy, Massachusetts residents age 50+ have their eyes on intergenerational priorities. They want to protect K-12 education for their children and grandchildren (80%); preserve long-term care and home care services for seniors (78%); maintain transportation and infrastructure (78%); and, keep local aid sufficient for fire, police, parks and recreation – as well as senior centers – in the community (77%).
Living in Massachusetts
When it comes to living in Massachusetts, most 50+ residents (71%) say they are satisfied with their communities. Still, some worry about staying in their current residence (42%) and local community (40%) for as long as possible, and having access to alternative housing options like senior housing (40%). They also express concerns about getting around: neighborhoods having accessible sidewalks and good street lighting (39%); and, driving in the community (25%).
“Right now, Massachusetts is the 13th oldest state in the nation,” says Banda. “In ten short years, we will see a major increase in the 60+ population that will effectively redefine the makeup of our commonwealth. Now is the time to focus on community concerns – health and long-term care, housing, transportation – and start preparing to make the most of the coming age wave.”
Get Involved with AARP MA
- Stay up-to-date on news and information for 50+ in Massachusetts: Read our daily blog
- Connect with other AARP MA members on Facebook and Twitter
- Get involved with state or federal advocacy: Join our grassroots network
- Volunteer for a community service project
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-448-3621.
About the survey
Four hundred Massachusetts residents, all age 50 and older, responded to the telephone survey, which was conducted between January 1 and January 31, 2011. About half of the respondents are working; half, retired. As for political views, 34 percent consider themselves liberal; 23 percent, moderate; and, 28 percent, conservative. Further, 47 percent are Independent voters; 35 percent are affiliated with the Democratic party, and 13 percent with the Republican party; four percent say they are “other.” The sampling error is plus or minus 5 percent.