Photo: University of Michigan
Despite the pandemic’s terrible toll on older adults, a new national poll shows that most people over 50 still say their health is as good as it was before March 2020, or even better.
But a sizable minority – 20% of those in their 50s and early 60s, and 14% of those over 65 – say their health has declined in that time, according to the new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging. A smaller percentage said their health has improved.
The percentage saying their health has declined during the pandemic was much higher – 40% -- among those who call their current physical or mental health status fair or poor. The poll’s other findings also suggest that this group of older adults may need extra support to help them age well.
The poll team asked older adults in April about how their health today compares with what they expected when they were younger, and what aspects of their life are helping them age well.
“This is a great reminder that this pandemic has not affected everyone equally, and that we have a long-term challenge of understanding and address the needs of older adults whose health has declined over the past two years, or who already had major physical or mental health challenges even before the pandemic,” says Preeti Malani, M.D., the poll director and a Michigan Medicine infectious disease physician also trained in geriatrics. “At the same time, our findings underscore the resilience of many older adults, and the importance of everything from social connections to hobbies and getting outdoors in helping them age well.”
The poll is based at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center.
The new findings come as the poll celebrates its fifth anniversary with a special webinar on May 19, called “Optimizing Health and Well-Being as We Age” and co-presented by IHPI and AARP.
Malani notes that the vast majority of adults aged 50 to 80 agreed that they know what steps they should take to be healthy as they age, but the poll shows gaps between what people “know” they should do and what they do.
“Over the past five years, we’ve often used our polls to examine the gap between knowledge and action on health and well-being, to better understand why gaps exist and how older adults and their families, their health care providers, and policymakers can or should be doing more,” said Malani.
The National Poll on Healthy Aging results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,037 adults aged over 50 from the Foresight 50+ Omnibus panel, which draws from the Foresight 50+ Panel by AARP and NORC at the University of Chicago who answered a wide range of questions online and by phone in April 2022. Questions were written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Read past National Poll on Healthy Aging reports.