Caring For an Aging Nation

Caring For an Aging Nation

January 18, 2018

Caring for an Aging Nation: A Survey Examining Ideal Elder Care in America

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of Americans aged 65 and older will increase 105 percent between 2015 and 2060. This is largely thanks to baby boomers, who are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day. As more and more of us approach retirement, a big question hangs over our heads: Who is going to be there to support us when we get older?

Most Americans harbor no delusions about the government’s ability to provide adequate support for us in retirement. The Social Security Board of Trustees projects that rising costs of the program will cause it to become depleted by 2035, at which time it will only be able to provide 77 percent of its scheduled benefits. Other than the government, the best source of support beyond our own retirement savings is our children.

We asked 1,000 people across the nation and across three generations what they thought about the prospect of their children caring for them in retirement. After analyzing the results, this is what we found.

Caring Kids

Helping Hands: Percentage of People Who Believe Children are Obligated to Care for Their Parents

We asked our survey participants if they think children are obligated to care for their parents. You raised your kids – the least they can do is support you when needed, right?

The majority of Americans agreed that children have an obligation to care for their parents in some capacity. Our results suggested that over 55 percent of parents expect their children will help take care of them or provide financial assistance as they age. In the Mountain region of the U.S., however, only 36 percent of Americans believed children are obligated to care for their parents.

When we broke our survey responses down by gender, we found that women were slightly more likely than men to believe their children should take care of them. Likewise, women are more likely to be caregivers themselves, which may give them a higher sense of entitlement to similar support later on.

Generation X respondents were the most likely to view supporting parents as an obligation, at 58 percent. Millennials weren’t far behind, with 57 percent believing children are obligated to care for their parents. Interestingly, baby boomers, who are the nearest to retirement themselves, were significantly less likely (48 percent) to think children have an obligation to support their parents.

We also found significant differences among the various religions, with Mormons (at 80 percent) by and large the most likely to see children as being obligated to care for their parents. Americans of Jewish faith were the second most likely to hold this view, with atheists or agnostics and those who say they have no religious preference the least likely to view caring for parents as a child’s obligation.

The most significant factor affecting whether or not a person considers children obligated to care for their parents appeared to be the person’s relationship with his or her own parents. Americans who had or have a close relationship with their parents were almost 38 percent more likely to believe children are obligated to care for their parents.

A Difficult Dilemma

A Heavy Heart: The Percentage of Americans Who Find It Emotionally Difficult to Care for Their ParentsSpeaking of the closeness of parental relationships, it turns out that if you have a close relationship with your parents, you are less likely to find it emotionally difficult to care for them as they age. Our results suggest that if you live in the West North Central region, you are also significantly less likely to find providing care to your parents emotionally difficult. Only 30 percent of Americans in the West North Central region said they find it emotionally difficult to care for their parents, which is considerably less than the national average of over 45 percent.

The emotional burden of care is higher for women (49 percent) than men (38 percent). It also hits baby boomers harder than any other generation. In fact, the younger you are, the less likely you are to find caring for your parents to be emotionally difficult. Only one-third of millennials think it is emotionally trying to care for aging parents, compared to nearly half of Gen Xers and two-thirds of baby boomers. This may be because baby boomers’ parents are older and likely to demand more involved care than parents of millennials and Gen Xers.

A Possible Predicament

A Guilty Conscience: The Percentage of American Parents Who Would Feel Guilty if Their Children Had to Take Care of ThemCaring for elderly parents can be a double-edged sword: Caregivers can be emotionally burdened with the demands of care, while care recipients may bear the weight of a guilty conscience for feeling like a burden to their loved ones. Even though the majority of our survey respondents said they consider children obligated to care for their parents, almost three-quarters also reported they would feel guilty if their children had to care for them.

Men and women are almost equally likely to feel guilt at the prospect of their children caring for them, with men slightly more likely (74 percent) than women (71 percent). Millennials, who were the least likely to say caring for parents causes emotional hardship, are also the least likely to feel guilt at the prospect of their children caring for them. Of course, millennials are also the furthest away from potentially needing elder care themselves.

We found two main indicators of guilt related to needing a child’s care: First, if our respondents’ parents live or lived in an assisted living home, and second, how personally close they are or were to their parents.

The Door Is Always Open

Come on Over: The Frequency in Which American Parents Expect Their Children to Visit

If children live nearby their parents, they may visit more as their parents age. In fact, they should visit at least once a week, according to 56 percent of Americans. If they don’t live nearby, more than half of our respondents said they expect their children to visit only occasionally throughout the year.

Americans living in the Mountain region were significantly less likely to expect their children to visit at least once a week. Only 38 percent of respondents there said they expect weekly visits from their children. The second least expectant region was New England, with 50 percent of respondents anticipating weekly visits.

An Open Invitation

Come on Over: The Frequency in Which American Parents Expect Their Children to VisitAmericans who had poor relationships with their parents had the lowest expectations of their own children. Even if their children live nearby, only 46 percent expected to see their children on a weekly basis. Americans who are close to their parents expected more face time from their children. Almost 60 percent said they expect their children to visit them at least once a week if they live nearby.

Acceptable Arrangements

Living It Up: Americans Share Their Thoughts on Post-Retirement Living ArrangementsWhen asked about their ideal post-retirement living arrangements, the response was quite clear: Most Americans do not want to live in retirement homes.

A full 64 percent of Americans gave a resounding “No” when asked if they wanted to live in a retirement home. Almost 1 in 5 of our respondents thought living in a retirement home wouldn’t be so bad. Retirement homes are essentially dorm living for seniors, aren’t they?

It turns out dads are less accepting of retirement home living than moms. Fifty-nine percent of men said they would be downright upset if their kids put them in a retirement home, whereas 47 percent of women said the same. Just under half of Gen Xers said they would not be upset if their kids suggested relocating them to a retirement home. The same cannot be said for boomers and millennials, who the majority said they wouldn’t be upset at the prospect of a nursing home.

While Americans, in general, are definitive in what they don’t want for their retirement lifestyle – e.g., no retirement homes – they are also fairly definite in what they do want. Both men and women vastly prefer to live on their own (sans nurse) come retirement.

With Age Comes Apprehension

Causes for Concern: Americans Share Their Greatest Fears Associated with Getting OlderAmericans may have concerns regarding many aspects of growing old, but their own death was not top among them.

For our survey respondents, the three biggest fears associated with getting older were mental regression, loss of mobility, and the death of a child.

They also worried about getting Alzheimer’s or dementia and losing their financial stability or their spouse. In fact, they feared the death of their children, spouse, relatives, and others their own age more than they feared their own death.

Causes for Concern: Americans Share Their Greatest Fears Associated with Getting Older

Baby boomers feared the loss of three things most of all: their mobility, their mental faculties, and their financial stability. Generation X also felt unease at losing their mental faculties and their mobility, but they were less afraid of losing their financial stability. Instead, 88 percent of Gen Xers said they fear the death of their children. Among millennials, the loss of a child and regressing mentally were met with equal disquiet. The loss of a spouse was only slightly less distressing.

Regressing mentally was among the top three fears for both men and women. Both genders also said they fear losing their mobility and the death of their child(ren).

Here to Help

While you may not be able to count on the government or your children to support you in your time of need, you can count on us. At, we pride ourselves on protecting what matters most: your health and independence. With our lifesaving medical life alert system, you don’t have to worry about becoming a burden to your family. We can provide 24-hour medical support when you need it, without having to share your living space with a nurse. Stop worrying about who will care for you later; contact us today to find out how peace of mind can be only a button push away.


We surveyed 1,000 people who live in the United States regarding their sentiments toward growing older and the expectations and responsibilities of family members providing care for aging relatives.

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