2014 United States of Aging Survey: Seniors motivated to improve their health

DALLAS — The 2014 United States of Aging Survey released Tuesday found that Americans aged 60 years and older report they are more motivated than the past two years to improve their health by exercising regularly and setting health goals — two simple steps which also relate to reported increases in optimism among seniors.
 
According to the third annual survey, more than one-third of seniors (37%) say they exercise every day, compared with 26% in 2013. For many seniors, high activity levels correspond to a positive perspective on life: seniors who exercise daily are much more likely than those who never exercise to say the past year of their life has been better than normal rather than worse (28% compared with 15%).
 
More than half of seniors (53%) report setting health goals in 2014, compared with 47% in 2013. Seniors who set health goals are more than twice as likely to think their overall quality of life will improve compared with those who did not set health goals (38% vs. 16%), and more than three times as likely to be confident their health will be better in future years (28% vs. 9%). The top three health goals set by seniors this year are eating healthier (37%), losing weight (30%) and living a more physically active lifestyle (24%).
 
The results of the 2014 survey are being released today at the 39th Annual n4a Conference & Tradeshow in Dallas as part of a larger effort led by n4a, NCOA, UnitedHealthcare and USA TODAY to examine seniors’ attitudes on a range of issues such as health, finances and community support. 
 
“More Americans are living longer lives than ever before,” stated Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “It is highly encouraging to see more older Americans taking charge of how they age, making deliberate choices and setting goals to help themselves live healthier and more independently during their extended senior years.”
 
When asked who is the most influential person motivating them to live a healthy lifestyle, nearly 4 in 10 seniors (39%) say themselves. More than one quarter of seniors (26%) say their spouse motivates them, and 15% say their adult children do. Regardless of the source of motivation, this year’s uptick in healthy behavior corresponds with a notable shift: for the first time in the three-year history of the United States of Aging Survey, more seniors say the past year of their life was better than normal (24%) as opposed to worse than normal (22%).
 
“The findings show that seniors are moving in the right direction with their health, but there is still room for improvement,” commented James Firman, president and CEO, NCOA. “Building upon this trend and getting even more boomers and older adults to take these simple steps are keys to creating a healthier and more productive society.”
 
When asked what worries them the most about their senior years, the top three answers for seniors are “not being able to take care of myself” (16%), “losing my memory” (14%), and “being a burden” (9%); however, a majority of seniors (85%) feel confident that they are prepared for changes in their health as they age.
 
More than half of Americans over 60 (58%) say they have discussed end-of-life care with loved ones, a proportion that rises to 64% for seniors 75 and older. More than half of seniors (53%) report creating advance directives such as a living will, and 50% have shared advance directives with loved ones. Still, one in 10 seniors say they do not want to plan for or think about end-of-life care.
 
For complete survey results, visit NCOA.org/UnitedStatesofAging. To watch live as the survey is presented at the Annual n4a Conference and Tradeshow in Dallas, including an interview with featured keynote speaker former First Lady Laura Bush, visit USofAging.USATODAY.com on July 15 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET. Join the conversation on Twitter with #USofAging.
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