Broker Check

A Changing Industry: Helping clients plan for living longer

“…. a study on the preferences, practices and potential of the 55+ population …. identifies a growing demand for independent wealth planning tax professionals …. By 2030, one in five residents will be over the age of 60.”

“This tremendous shift will …. challenge every aspect of community life: healthcare, transportation, employment, housing, recreation and leisure, economic development, infrastructure expansion and education.”

“Americans are living much longer, and compared with previous generations, older adults are healthier and wealthier.”

“Leaving the day-to-day commitment of a full-time job and pursuing hobbies, travel, spending time with their families or on the golf course, giving back to the community or starting a second career are all priorities to the 55+ age category.”

“Increases in longevity will also increase the need for significant care and support over longer periods of time. This care can be very expensive and complicated to understand. Across the country, the vast majority of care is provided by family members.”

“Despite the large numbers of older adults concerned about paying for long-term care, very few have purchased insurance to help cover these costs.”

The Atlanta Regional Commission, Area Agency on Aging has published a study on the preferences, practices and potential of the 55+ population in the Atlanta region, that identifies a growing demand for independent wealth planning tax professionals that is reflected across the entire United States of America.

Without a doubt, there are many challenges presented by the growth in the older adult population. Never before have the region and the nation as a whole experienced a demographic shift of this nature. Having the right information at the right time is the best way to help clients make the decisions that will benefit them as they get older. The results of this survey provide a community-based perspective to the larger, world-wide demographic shift taking place. By taking small but intentional steps today, clients will be able to enhance the quality of life during their 55+ years.

Atlanta, like the rest of the country and many parts of the world, is experiencing a dramatic increase in its older adult population. Between 2000 and 2015 the aging population is expected to double. By 2030, one in five residents will be over the age of 60. Recent data support these projections. From 2000 to 2005, the older adult population grew by 30.6%, more than double the rate of growth in the region’s population during the same period of time. Growth in the older adult population exceeded growth in the total population in all but one of the region’s counties.

This marks a significant change for Atlanta, a region accustomed to growth, but growth that has historically occurred in the younger and working populations. This tremendous shift will transform the region and challenge every aspect of community life: healthcare, transportation, employment, housing, recreation and leisure, economic development, infrastructure expansion and education. It will force local leaders to question the way billions of dollars are spent. It will affect the way public and private services are delivered, homes are built, even the way streets are crossed. Despite these challenges, the rapidly increasing older adult population offers the Atlanta region the opportunity to re-imagine what it means to live as a community and recognize that preparing for the future older adult population will improve the quality of life for all residents, no matter their age.

To prepare for this demographic shift, it is critical for local communities in the region to explore what the future older adult population will need; what as individuals they plan to do and how as a group they might differ from previous generations of retirees. Americans are living much longer, and compared with previous generations, older adults are healthier and wealthier. Many future older adults have very different expectations for their retirement years, contemplating shifts in their housing, employment, leisure and travel choices. Finally, even a quick glance at the demographics and the amount of public funding currently allocated toward aging services shows that communities cannot rely on the traditional service system to meet the needs of the growing population. The dollars simply are not available. Additional funds have to be leveraged, and personal resources must be maximized.

The Atlanta Regional Commission, Area Agency on Aging study findings:

  • A majority of older adults think the Atlanta region is a good place to retire (67%).

     

  • Most older adults have been aging in place —living in the region an average of 37 years — and most hope to continue aging in place; 64% state that they would remain in their current home as long as they can.

     

  • Even if they do move from their existing home, 52% plan to move to another home in the Atlanta region.

     

  • A significant number of the 55+ population are not working (67%). Of those who are working, 52% plan to continuing working after they retire from their current job.

     

  • A third of older adults volunteer on a regular basis. Their volunteer work is mostly part-time and occurs at least weekly.

     

  • Less than half of the older adult population said they were in good or excellent health. Those with higher levels of education and higher annual incomes were more likely to be in good health.

     

  • 85% of those surveyed, reported that their mental health was good or excellent.

     

  •  The vast majority of older adults exercise at least 1-2 times a week, but 11% do not exercise at all.

     

  •  Almost all older adults are checking their blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly, but less than half are getting flu shots or pneumonia vaccines.

     

  • Only 21% of older adults in the Atlanta region own long-term care insurance policies.

     

  • 45% of older adults are very or somewhat concerned that they will not be able to pay for long-term care.

     

  • 88% of older adults use their own vehicle as their primary mode of transportation, and 15% report having trouble getting where they need to go.

     

  • 13% of the 55+ population plan on using public transportation as their primary mode when they can no longer drive, but 57% plan to be driven around by others.

     

By 2030 more than 1.2 million older adults will call the Atlanta region home . This trend in the Atlanta region is consistent with the state as a whole. Georgia has the eighth fastest growing older adult population in the country, ranking just after traditional retirement destinations like Florida, New Mexico and Arizona.

The growth in the region’s older adult population is from both in-migration and aging in place. More, older adults are moving to the region, and as the region’s once-young residents age, they are continuing to call Atlanta home. In the 2000 Census more than a third of individuals over the age of 65 had lived in their current residence more than 35 years. Consistent with national surveys, the majority of older

Adults in Atlanta continue to express a strong desire to remain in their homes. With so many individuals deciding to age in place, the region’s median age has risen steadily over the last several decades. In 1970 the median age was 27.2 years. In 2005 the median age in was 34.1 years. This means that over half of the region’s population is over the age of 34.

Georgia is a net receiver from all but 14 states, meaning that more older adults move to Georgia from 36 states than older adults move from Georgia to those states. Surprising to many is the fact that from 1995 to 2000 more individuals moved to Georgia from Florida, California, Texas and New Mexico, than moved from Georgia to these states.

Finally, the older adult population is growing because the population is simply living longer. Life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last century. From 1900 to 2003 life expectancy at birth rose from 48 to 75 for men and from 51 to 80 for women. Life expectancy at 65 rose from 12 to 17 years for men and from 12 to 20 years for women. This means that for older adults who reach the age of 65, men are likely to live to age 82 and women are likely to live to age 85. More and more Americans will retire and can expect to live another 20 to 30 years. The projected growth in the 65+ Population 2000-2030 in Georgia is 143.00% and Florida is 176.70%.

Older Adults Plan to Stay in Georgia

Older adults in the region have been here a long time and plan to stay as long as possible. Their preference to “age in place” challenges the notion that all older adults move to the country, the mountains or to sunny destinations when they retire. “It also means that it is possible to know where a majority of the future older adult population will be and as a result, plan for their needs.” For many older adults, their future residence is their current residence.

The average number of years an individual over the age of 55 has lived in the Atlanta region is 37. The vast majority of older adults, 84%, own the home in which they live. Most older adults report a strong desire to remain in their current homes. 64% of the 55+ population said they would stay “as long as they can.” If individuals do move, they are more likely to do so before age 70, to move to a house smaller than their existing residence and to one within the Atlanta region. The desire to live closer to family was the factor most likely to influence where someone would move. These preferences raise some concerns about housing for older adults currently under construction in the outer edges of the region, removed from existing communities where children and grandchildren live. They also suggest that housing designed to meet the needs of older adults should be integrated within existing neighborhoods so that older adults can find homes near their family members. Surprisingly, fewer adults indicated that they would move to be close to other people their own age, yet much of the housing that is being built for older adults is age-restricted. Factors that do influance the 55+ age category include moving to a smaller residence, to a location within the Atlanta region, to be closer to their family, to find more affordable housing, to be closer to doctors, to have access to entertainment venues, to live in a quiet community or to be around “people their own age.”

Retirement

Leaving the day-to-day commitment of a full-time job and pursuing hobbies, travel, spending time with their families or on the golf course, giving back to the community or starting a second career are all priorities to the 55+ age category. While actual retirement plans and activities are as diverse as the number of retirees, for just about everyone a change in employment status means a change in many other parts of their lives. Understanding the employment status of the older adult population, how long those who are employed plan to continue working and what factors are involved in shaping an individual’s choices about employment, informs not only what we know about the labor force, but other changes likely to impact the community at large. This includes but is not limited to transportation patterns as individuals no longer commute to a 9 to 5 job, housing preferences, social and civic activities, spending patterns, leisure and recreation activities.

The majority of older adults in the Atlanta region are not working at all. The percentage of older adults working full-time decreases with age from 38% (age 55-59) to 2% (80+). The largest drop in full-time employment occurs between the 60-64 age group and the 65-70 age group. While there are many factors which determine when an individual leaves the workforce, healthcare is often one of them. The drop in employment rates between the 60-64 and 65-70 age groups is likely to be related Medicare coverage which for most begins at age 65. Some older adults continue to work in order to retain employer sponsored healthcare coverage until they are eligible for Medicare.

Of those who are currently working:

  • 25% plan to work full-time after retiring from their current job.

     

  • 31% plan to work part-time.

     

  • 32% do not plan to work at all.

     

     

Of those who are not currently employed:

  • 72% retired from a full-time job.

     

  • 26% either did not work before or held part-time employment before retiring.

     

     

As education level increases, employment levels increase: 81% of those with a high school diploma or less are not working, whereas 55% of those who have done post-graduate education are working either full-time or part-time. Not surprisingly the rate of employment also increases with income. Only 34% of older adults with annual incomes over $100,000/year are not working; 65% are working either full- or part-time.

Volunteering in the Community

Volunteers are a critical component of community life. Many nonprofit organizations, local programs and services could not exist without the volunteers who spend countless hours giving of their time and resources. Recent studies have shown that volunteering not only provides psychological benefits to the volunteer; it can provide significant health benefits and may even prolong life . In the Atlanta region only a third (35%) of older adults actively volunteer. Most of this volunteering is done on a part-time basis, with 45% of older adult volunteers reporting that they volunteer intermittently. In general, volunteering increases with income and education, which suggests that the ability to volunteer may be related to an individual’s access to transportation or overall health. The volunteering trends in Atlanta are consistent with national trends.

Health of the Adult Population

The higher an individual’s income or education, the more likely he or she was to report excellent health — only 5% of those with an annual income less than $20,000 felt they were in excellent health, compared with 37% of those with an annual income over $100,000. For those with less than a high school diploma, only 10% felt their health was excellent, compared with 35% of those who had done post-graduate work. The self-reported health status in most counties is consistent with national trends.

The amount of annual income spent on healthcare expenses rises dramatically with age. On average, 45-54 year olds spend $3,000 on healthcare each year. In comparison, an individual over the age of 85 will spend more than $20,000 annually. With healthcare costs increasing for all age groups, staying healthier does not just affect an individual’s quality of life; it can have significant implications on a family’s overall economic security. While most medical professionals and individuals understand the need for preventive healthcare, a surprising number of older individuals do not take simple actions that can have a large impact on their health. These include flu shots, pneumonia shots and regular colorectal screenings.

The survey found that almost all older adults are practicing some preventive healthcare. Significant numbers of older adults are regularly checking their blood pressure (95%) and cholesterol levels (84%). A majority of older men have had a prostate exam (88%). A large majority of older women have had both mammograms (93%) and pap tests (93%) but only 66% had a mammogram and only 53% had a pap test in the last year. Significant numbers of older adults have not had a flu shot in the last 12 months (56%), only 42% have ever had a pneumonia vaccination. Only 25% of the 55+ population had a colorectal cancer screening in the last two years. The ability to access preventive healthcare services is critical to increasing the number of older adults who avail themselves of basic services like annual flu shots.

Older adults who have been active throughout their lives are far more likely to be active as they age. Physical activity can improve symptoms of depression, reduce risk factors for chronic diseases and for even some of the frailest older adults, physical activity can improve functioning and mobility. The vast majority of older adults in the Atlanta region exercise at least 1-2 times a week.

Physical activity remains relatively constant over different age groups. Virtually the same percentage of individuals age 55-79 (between 55% and 58%) exercise at least 3 times a week. This suggests that once exercise becomes a part of an individual’s weekly routine, it remains a steady component despite age. Most of the correlations between income and education and physical activity mirror those between income and education and health. Individuals with higher incomes and higher education levels are more likely to exercise regularly than those who have lower incomes and lower levels of education.

Whether or not an individual regularly engages in physical activity is based on more than their individual willingness or motivation. The ability to exercise greatly depends on access to recreational facilities and local conditions including the presence of sidewalks and lighting in individual neighborhoods.

Good nutrition is extremely important to older adults. Dietary intake impacts more than body weight, it plays a significant role in overall health and is a large determinant of an individual’s likelihood of developing a chronic disease. Access to quality foods at reasonable prices, the challenge of changing life-long eating habits and increasing frailty impact an older adult’s ability to eat a healthy diet. The national Healthy Eating Index maintained by the CDC showed that 67% of individuals over the age of 65 needed to improve their diet and 14% had poor diets .

In the Atlanta region, only 11% of older adults report having trouble preparing their own meals, but this percentage translates into approximately 44,000 persons needing some assistance with this very basic function. The inability to prepare meals increases with age, as 19% of those over the age of 80 were unable to prepare their own meals. Older adults with lower incomes were also more likely to have difficulty maintaining basic nutrition, as 22% of those with annual incomes less than $20,000 a year are either always or often unable to prepare their own meals.

Long-Term Care

The dramatic increases in longevity over the last century will allow many more grandparents to become great-grandparents, many more Americans to celebrate their 100th birthday and many more couples to mark 50 and 60 years together. Technology is advancing and new devices, medicines and treatments are challenging what it looks and feels like to grow old. Increases in longevity will also increase the need for significant care and support over longer periods of time. This care can be very expensive and complicated to understand. Across the country, the vast majority of care is provided by family members.

Long-term care is a single phrase that describes many different systems and services. For individuals struggling to remain in the community, long-term care can describe everything from assistance with yard maintenance to chronic disease management to short term stays in a rehab facility after an acute health episode, like a fractured hip. Long-term care is certainly not synonymous with nursing home care. In fact, most older adults express extreme discomfort and deep fear about the prospect of any time spent in a nursing home.

While many older adults and their families can describe in detail how they do not want to age, a surprising number of individuals have misinformation about basic long-term care issues and services. The majority (51%) of 55+ Atlantans believe that Medicare will pay for long-term care or simply do not know who, if anyone, covers these costs. The lack of accurate information about who pays for long-term care is consistent across age groups. Men and women are equally ill-informed about long-term care costs. As income and education increase, an understanding about who pays for long-term care increases, but at least 40% of those with incomes over $75,000 a year and over 45% of those with some college education either believed Medicare pays for long-term care or did not know.

With more and more individuals caring for older loved ones, awareness about the costs and the burdens long-term care can place on a family has grown. 45% of older adults are very or somewhat concerned that they will not be able to pay for long-term care. Concern is highest among younger, older adults (52% of those ages 55-59, 46% of those ages 60-64). Older females (49%), nonwhites (58%) and those with the lowest incomes (65%) are among the most concerned.

Despite the large numbers of older adults concerned about paying for long-term care, very few have purchased insurance to help cover these costs. Only 21% of older adults in the Atlanta region own long-term care insurance policies. The percentage of older adults who own these insurance policies remains constant across age groups, so that even as individuals approach the time during which they might need long-term care, they do not have insurance to cover it.

In the Atlanta region, white older adults are more likely to own a long-term care insurance policy (23% compared to 17% non-white). Individuals with higher education levels were more likely to own long-term care insurance (14% of those with a high school diploma or less; 29% of those with post-graduate work). Individuals with higher income were more likely to own long-term care insurance (11% of those with incomes <$20,000 compared with 31% of those with incomes over $100,000).

Understanding the need for long-term care insurance is only the beginning; cost is a critical concern for many. Often after ages 60-65 long-term care insurance premiums are prohibitively expensive. It is critical that the region educate individuals about long-term care, its costs and the value of insurance so that Atlantans can still obtain this coverage while it is affordable.

Transportation

The greatest thing that most older adults fear about aging is losing their independence. In the Atlanta region, for many older adults, the moment they give up the keys to the car is the moment they lose their independence. Not only are older adults suddenly unable to get where they need to go when they need to get there, many of their family members assume significant time and resource responsibilities as they transport their loved one to doctors appointments and on basic errands. Without transportation older adults become increasingly isolated, which for many leads to poor physical and mental health.

Transportation has been and continues to be a challenge for older adults in the Atlanta region. The vast majority of older adults (88%) use their own vehicle as their primary mode of transportation. Only 7% are driven by others, and barely 4% use public transportation. When asked how they plan to get around when they can no longer drive, the majority, 57%, plan to be driven by others, 13% plan to start using public transportation and 21% do not know how they will get around. It seems almost impossible to rely on family members to shoulder the future transportation needs of older adults. The lack of options and the lack of planning around transportation for older adults at both the individual and community level is cause for significant concern.

The survey also asked about current transportation challenges. The oldest, older adults (80+) have the most trouble getting around (20%), but the youngest older adults (aged 55-59) still have significant problems (16%). While the 80+ older adult population reported the most trouble getting where they needed to go, the vast majority did not have trouble getting to the destinations asked about on the survey.