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Volume XXXIII
Spring / Summer 2018

Outlook

Cheer Up, Getting Older is
Better Than You Think

Nearly Half of People Age 18-39 Say It's 'Normal To Be Depressed' In Older Age; but Only 10 Percent of Older People Agree

The findings of a new independently conducted survey, released by AARP, reveal that younger people (especially those currently age 1839) 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.

Peppermill gathering
Friends gather at the Peppermill for awards recognition at the annual Human Services Network Awards. Left to right back row: Sina Ward, Sally Ramm, Larry Weiss, Chris McMullen, Barry Gold, Laura Coger, and Donna Clontz. Front left to right: Mary Liveratti, Marsy Kupfersmith, Connie McMullen, and Maria Dent.

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." Additionally, survey respondents age 60 and up reported higher levels of life satisfaction than their younger counterparts: 67 percent of people age 60plus 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.