Seniors Fear Loss of Independence, Nursing Homes More Than Death

November 12, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Privacy & Security

Senior citizens fear moving into a nursing home and losing their independence more than they fear death, according to a study, “Aging in Place in America,” commissioned by Clarity and The EAR Foundation, which also found that the Baby Boomer children of seniors also fear for their parents.

Boomers express particular concern about their parents’ emotional and physical wellbeing should they have to enter a nursing home, finds the study, which examines the attitudes and anxieties of the nation’s elderly population (via MediaPost).

When asked what they fear most, seniors rated loss of independence (26%) and moving out of home into a nursing home (13%) as their greatest fears. Death was cited as the greatest fear for just 3% of seniors.


Some key findings of the study:

  • 89% of seniors want to age in place – or grow older without having to move from their homes – and more than half (53%) are concerned about their ability to do so.
  • 82% of Baby Boomers fear their parents will be mistreated in a nursing home and 89% fear their parents will be sad.
  • Seniors living at home are determined to maintain their independence, reporting that they require – and receive – limited support from their children or other caregivers.
  • 63% Boomers say they are providing some kind of help or support their parents.
  • Half of seniors are open to using new technologies to enable independence, including having sensors installed in their homes to monitor their health.
  • Baby Boomers have not turned to technology to assist their aging parents. Only 14% have actually looked for solutions that would help them ensure the health and safety of their parents.

Below, more-detailed findings from the study.

Seniors Want to Age in Place, Don’t Ask for Help


  • The vast majority of seniors (89%) say the ability to age in place – or live independently and remain in one’s home – is very important, but more than half of those surveyed (53%) are concerned with their ability to do so.
  • Seniors cite three primary concerns that could jeopardize their ability to live independently: health problems (53%); memory problems (26%); and inability to drive and/or get around (23%).
  • Seniors say they do not expect nor do they receive much support from those around them:
    • The majority of seniors (55%) view themselves as very independent in that they receive no assistance from their children and seem content with that fact.
    • The vast majority (75%) said their children are involved “enough” in their life.
  • Seniors who do require help from others receive assistance with household maintenance (20%), transportation (13%) and healthcare (8%). Very few (1%) reported receiving financial support.

Seniors Open to New Solutions

The study examined seniors’ attitudes toward technologies that enable an independent life.

  • Virtually all seniors are comfortable using the telephone, while almost half of seniors are comfortable using personal computers, the  internet and email.
  • Not surprisingly, seniors’ comfort level with computer technology decreased in older age groups, particularly those over 75 years of age.
  • 65% of seniors say they are open to or would like to use new technologies that enable independence.
  • More than half (54%) would consider the use of ambient technology in their homes – specifically, sensors – to monitor their health and safety.

Boomers Worried about Aging Parents

The study also examined the attitudes of Baby Boomers who have at least one living parent.


  • The vast majority (94%) of Boomers say it is important that their senior parents be able to age in place; however, 79% are concerned about their parents’ ability to do so, and 57% are very concerned.
  • 82% fear their parents might be mistreated if they move into a nursing home, and 89% worry their parents would be saddened by the loss of their independence.
  • 79% say they are worried that their parents would not like living in a nursing home, and 70% are concerned their parents will be scared to move out of their homes.
  • Parents’ health is another major issue of concern for Baby Boomers, with 77% saying so; 75% also say they are worried about the potential for falls/injuries (75%) and their parents’ ability to drive (58%).
  • Most Boomers are not concerned that their parents might someday be a burden to them: 51% say they are not concerned that they may have to financially support their parents; 60% say they are not concerned that their parents might have to move in with them.

Boomers Helping Senior Parent

  • Most (63%) say they are actively involved in providing some kind of help or assistance to a parent (over half say they also have children under age 25).
  • Household maintenance (40%), transportation (34%), medical issues (33%), help with financial decisions (28%) and financial support (19%) were the most frequent types of support reported by Boomers.
  • Baby Boomers with children are more likely than those without children to provide non-financial assistance to their parents, including help with household maintenance, medical issues and medication, and transportation.
  • Baby Boomers without children are more likely than those with children to provide financial assistance to their parents, including making purchasing or financial decisions and providing financial support.

Boomers Have Not Turned to Technology to Help Parents

  • Like seniors, Baby Boomers are open to new technologies that would help seniors age in place but very few are actively seeking these products.
  • Half of Baby Boomers (49%) are interested in new technologies that would help them monitor their parents’ safety and wellbeing.
  • 51% also think there are technology products available aimed at meeting the needs of seniors.
  • 50% would be open to the use of ambient technology – specifically, sensors – to monitor the health and safety of their aging parents.
  • However, just 14% of Baby Boomers have actually looked for any technology solutions that would help them ensure the health and safety of their parents.

About the study: The research for “Aging in Place in America” was conducted by an independent research company, Prince Market Research. Over 800 seniors and Baby Boomers were polled. This is the third in a series of studies since 2003 commissioned by a partnership of Clarity and The EAR Foundation to better understand the health and lifestyle needs of America’s aging population.

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