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Fear of death? No, many fear loss of independence
By Special to the Times
Published December 18, 2007
Older adults fear moving into a nursing home and losing their independence more than they fear death, according to a new study that examines the attitudes and anxieties of the nation's elderly population.
The children of these seniors also fear for their parents, with particular concern about the parents' emotional and physical well-being should they enter a nursing home.
This is the third in a series of studies since 2003 commissioned by a partnership of Clarity and the EAR Foundation, to understand the lifestyle needs of America's aging population.
The EAR Foundation, an acronym for Education and Auditory Research, is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1971 to help integrate those with hearing problems into the mainstream of society. Clarity manufactures items to help with independent living.
For this study, termed "Aging in Place in America," more than 800 people were interviewed. They fell into two groups: those age 65 and older who are living at home, and boomers (ages 43 to 61) whose parents are still living.
When asked what they fear most, the older adults rated loss of independence (cited by 26 percent) and moving out of home into a nursing home (13 percent) as their greatest fears. Facing death was the greatest fear for only 3 percent.
Other key findings:
- 89 percent of the seniors want to age in place, that is, grow older without having to move from their homes.
- 53 percent are concerned about their ability to age in place. Issues that could jeopardize their ability to live independently, these seniors said: health problems (cited by 53 percent), memory problems (26 percent), and the inability to drive and/or get around (23 percent).
- 75 percent said their children are involved "enough" in their life.
Among the boomers:
- 94 percent say it is important their parents can age in place.
- 79 are concerned about their parents' ability to do so.
- 82 percent fear their parents will be mistreated in a nursing home.
- 89 percent fear their parents will be sad in a nursing home.
- 63 percent are providing some kind of help or support for their parents who are living independently.
About half of the older adults said they are willing to have sensors installed in their homes to monitor their health. Almost half are comfortable using personal computers, the Internet and e-mail. But this comfort level with computer technology decreased in older groups, particularly those 75 and older.
Only 14 percent of the boomers surveyed have looked for solutions that would help them ensure the health and safety of their parents.
Consistent with their concern about the well-being of their parents, the majority of boomers are not concerned that their parents might someday be a burden to them:
- 51 percent are not concerned they may have to support their parents.
- 60 percent are not concerned their parents might have to move in with them.
Boomers with children are more likely than those without children to provide non-financial assistance to their parents, such as help with household maintenance, medical issues and medication, and transportation. Boomers without children are more likely to provide financial assistance to their parents.