WASHINGTON, DC—The findings of a new independently conducted survey, released today by AARP, reveal that younger people (especially those currently age 18-39) may be in for a pleasant surprise later in life – getting older may not be as bad as they expect; in fact, it's often a pretty great time of life. However, as the new survey reveals, that's usually not their expectation going in.
Nearly half (47 percent) of survey respondents age 18-39 indicated they believe it's "normal to be depressed when you are old." In contrast, just 10 percent of respondents age 60 and up believe old age is a "depressing stage of life." (The survey polled 2,601 American adults of whom 1,027 respondents were age 18-39; 924 were age 45-59, and 650 were age 60 and up.) Additionally, survey respondents age 60 and up reported higher levels of life satisfaction than their younger counterparts: 67 percent of people age 60-plus reported they are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their life, versus 61 percent of people age 18-39 and 60 percent of those age 40-59.
"The findings of this new survey are further confirmation of something a lot of people, especially older people, know instinctively and that is that our upper ages can be great," said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. "However, I think the survey also presents a fairly stark reminder that we're all faced by a lot of negative associations around aging – some of it's 'in the culture' and some of it may be self-generated, but it's all damaging and, as this survey shows, it's often wrong."
"There's no question that getting older presents some new challenges -- no one's denying that – but, as we see it, a major takeaway from this new survey is that pervasive negative beliefs about aging are not in synch with what people actually experience," said Jenkins, whose book Disrupt Aging examines how aging is represented in society.
Despite the generally positive findings of the survey (as compared to the negative expectations younger people have about aging), the new survey reveals that it's not all blue skies in later life – especially as a consumer. A sizable majority of survey respondents believe that older customers are not well served by a variety of industries. Among the prime offenders: the fashion industry (68 percent of respondents said older people are not as well served as other customers), technology (62 percent), sports (58 percent), entertainment (55 percent.)
"When we look at this issue, it's frequently not a matter of 'customer service' in the traditional sense, but instead, of product- and service-focus," AARP's Jenkins said. "Despite the massive and growing size of the 60-plus population, which already accounts for more than $7.1 trillion of annual spending in the U.S., we don't see a lot of products and service being developed specifically with the interests and needs of older people in mind."
"It's easy to understand how and why businesses tend to focus first on younger consumers, but if they're ignoring older customers they're going to miss out on the nation's – and the world's – largest consumer market," Jenkins said.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million that helps people turn their goals and dreams into 'Real Possibilities' by changing the way America defines aging. With staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and promote the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare security, financial security and personal fulfillment. AARP also advocates for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the world's largest circulation magazine, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @aarp and our CEO @JoAnn_Jenkins on Twitter.