The Time is Now: Majority of Americans Say Government Should Prioritize Older Adults

PRESS RELEASE | June 29, 2021 | by Lisa Sanders

LeadingAge Care Economy Public Survey Results Reveal Support for Greater Investment Across Party Affiliation, Demographic and Geographic Groups

Contact: Lisa Sanders lsanders@leadingage.org 202-508-9407

June 29, 2021, Washington, DC -- As Congress and the Administration move forward on infrastructure and care economy proposals that provide support and services to older adults and their families, new polling commissioned by LeadingAge shows that overwhelming majorities of Americans from both parties want the government to step up with investments and leadership to properly support our nation’s older adults—and they believe that should happen now.

The results of an online survey* of 800 U.S. adults ages 18 and over also revealed that Americans are very concerned about how older adults are treated and believe that elected officials have failed them.

“American families are in crisis. Millions of us are growing older without access to the affordable care and support we need, and demand is surging for critical services,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, the association of nonprofit providers of aging services. “Americans agree that for too long our country has ignored and underfunded our aging services systems.

“Americans will no longer accept that millions of older adults living at home can’t get the care and services they need, from help getting in and out of bed to bathing and eating meals,” Sloan added. “Too many older adults can’t access the services needed to remain at home, are stuck on affordable housing waiting lists for years, are living in places they cannot afford, are skipping meals and medicine to pay rent, or are experiencing homelessness. Americans want action.

“Millions of family members and friends are struggling to balance the demands of caring for loved ones—and are increasingly stressed, stretched and in unsustainable situations. It’s time for our elected officials to listen to Americans from both parties and act now to support older adults,” said Sloan.

Key findings from the survey, fielded June 2021:

Americans agree that now is the time to focus on our nation’s older adults.

  • 85% of Americans agree that now is the right time to think about building a better aging services system for our seniors.
  • 91% of Democrats, 83% of Independents and 80% of Republicans agree now is the time to think about building a better system for seniors.
  • Support is nearly consistent regardless of where Americans live, with 85% of urban Americans, 87% of suburban Americans, and 82% of rural Americans agreeing.
  • Nearly one in five Americans say the President and Congress should be focused on improving care and services for seniors as a priority in the next few months.

Support for greater investment in services for older adults is overwhelming and bipartisan.

  • 86% say the government must make a bigger investment in services and care for seniors. This includes 92% of Democrats, 80% of Republicans, and 84% Independents.

Americans overwhelmingly support the proposed investments for older adults that are currently on the table.

  • 89% of Americans support public investment in affordable home care services to help older adults with essential needs like bathing and dressing, medication management, transportation, and basic daily chores.
  • 86% support public investment in housing and support for low-income older adults to address the shortage and waiting lists that lead to homelessness, instability, and skipping meals and medicine to pay rent.
  • 83% support public investment in broadband internet to ensure equitable access for older adults who need this basic utility for telehealth and other care services, and to fight social isolation.

The public believes that care and services like those currently proposed by the President and Congress are a basic right, and that the government plays a critical role in fulfilling society’s obligation to ensure they are available.

  • 85% of Americans agree that every American has a right to receive a basic level of housing, healthcare, and essential support regardless of age.
    • Regardless of political party affiliation support is robust: 92% of Democrats, 85% of Independents, and 75% of Republicans agree.
  • 91% of Americans agree that older Americans should have the support and resources they need to lead a fulfilling life.
    • Support is strong regardless of political party affiliation, with 93% of Democrats, 92% of Independents, and 88% of Republicans agreeing.
  • 89% of Americans agree that the government has an important role in ensuring that seniors are taken care of.
    • This sentiment is nearly unanimous regardless of where people live, with 92% of Americans in urban settings, 90% suburban, and 83% rural agreeing.
  • Only 22% of Americans think the amount of money we spend on older people is too high. This includes 14% of Republicans, 13% of Independents, and 31% of Democrats.

Americans say older adults are not treated well in the United States and that elected officials have failed them.

  • More than half of all Americans say that older adults are not treated well in the United States.
  • 83% of Americans say that elected officials have failed older adults and the people who care for them by ignoring and underfunding America's aging services for decades. The gaps and shortcomings of our government's system have created unnecessary hardship and struggle for too many families who cannot access or afford the care they need.
  • This sentiment is consistent across locales, with 85% of Americans in rural settings, 83% in urban settings, and 83% in suburban areas agreeing.

LeadingAge released a Needs Report in May 2021 documenting the growing care affordability and access crisis facing older Americans--and the need for more government reimbursement to enable care providers to meet this demand.

*Poll methodology: 3W Insights, a D.C.-based research driven strategic consultancy, polled adults about their perceptions of how older adults are treated in the United States for LeadingAge. The online survey of 800 Americans ages 18 and over was fielded June 15-20, 2021, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. The margin of error is larger for subgroups.

About LeadingAge:

We represent more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers and other mission-minded organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we use applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building to make America a better place to grow old. Our membership encompasses the entire continuum of aging services. We bring together the most inventive minds in the field to lead and innovate solutions that support older adults wherever they call home. For more information visit leadingage.org.