NPR: Boomers’ Optimism About Aging Doesn’t Always Coincide With Reality

Baby boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 a day and will continue to do so for about the next two decades, and while most of them have a positive outlook on their retirement according to a new survey conducted by The National Council on Aging, United Health Care and USA Today, that optimism may not completely match up with reality, said a geriatrician during an interview with NPR.

The inaugural United States of Aging survey revealed that boomers are favorable about their futures, but a “fact check” on the future of aging in America reveals rising health care needs that will likely impact the generation—and the entire health care system, said geriatrician Dr. Rhonda Randall, the chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement.

RANDALL: …[T]he most striking thing that they told us [in the survey], that I was actually very happy to see, is how optimistic they are about aging and about their future.


We know that attitude has so much to do with health and well-being. So I think that’s very good news in this story. We looked at how ready they are for aging, whether or not they have any chronic conditions today, how they plan for caregiving, how they plan for the financial aspects of health care, their other long-term-care needs.

DONVAN: At the same time, you’re saying that maybe the optimism is somewhat misplaced?

RANDALL: For some. So I think that for some, the optimism may not coincide with what reality could be. So we know over the age of 50, about 20 percent of us will have one or more chronic conditions. But we age over the age of 65, that number changes significantly so that 62 percent of us have two or more chronic conditions.


These are things like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and so forth. I think a lot of folks don’t recognize things like that as a chronic condition, right, may not recognize high blood pressure is a chronic condition, that you’re going to need to do something to control it, whether it’s lifestyle changes or medication or a combination

So the boomer generation can learn a lot from looking to the generations ahead of them. I think with the boomer generation, they have had more opportunity for advanced education, they’ve had more access to technology and all of the growth in that over their lifetime, and we see this is a group with large amount of consumerism, as you mentioned earlier.

They have changed every aspect of their lives that they have gone through just by their sheer volume. So as you opened the program and mentioned how schools had to change, once this group of individuals entered the workforce and started to have buying power, think about the companies that have marketed to that volume of seniors.

So I think that we’ll see the same with health care.

During the NPR interview, several boomers were invited to call into the show and share their experiences and outlooks on aging. Read the full transcript here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace