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Can We Fill a Gap?

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Today’s senior tends to be optimistic about the future and the aging process. This might be the social condition of behavioral optimism OR today’s senior sees the future as a brighter place than their predecessors. A majority of seniors 65 and older express a purposeful life for which they have a passion. They report exercising on a regular basis and express their opinions that they can positively affect their health with approaches other than medication (AARP Aging America Study).

Many seniors today remain in the workforce; one in five seniors over the age of 65 work either full or part-time. In a study conducted by AARP in 2016, 76% of respondents said they work for the feeling of productivity; whereas, 70% reported they worked for enjoyment.

One third of the senior respondents report feeling financially unprepared for health care expenses in their future. The survey was conducted among senior 60 years and older. Within the group as a whole, only 5% report difficulty in living independently, but as age progressed, 13% of seniors 70 and above mention difficulties in living independently without some form of assistance.

Optimism GapMIND THE GAP

So where is this gap we are concerned about? There are actually two gaps. One is the gap between what older adults perceive will work for their future versus what the past has indicated is most likely to happen. And the second gap is the affordability gap that exists for many older adults for the provision of healthcare that they may need in their future.  Today’s blog will explore seniors’ optimism contrasted with historical data.In next week’s blog, we’ll delve into the affordability gap.


For years, researchers have noted the occurrence of an optimism bias in our thoughts and decision-making. Generally, people overestimate the incidence of positive occurrences in our lives and underestimate the incidence of negative events. With this phenomenon manifesting itself at all stages of life, it is difficult to determine if seniors’ positive outlook on life can be attributed to this bias or if, indeed, there are reasons within our industry that cause an increased optimism about aging.In either case, the AARP study indicates that seniors tend to have a positive outlook on life and their future. When surveyed, the majority of seniors feel their current situation, both financial and physical, would remain the same or even improve. Those over 70 years of age tended to be less optimistic. The confidence of seniors is broad. They feel they have the ability now and in the near future to: handle finances; have adequate finances; access necessary services; attain medical care; manage medications; and maintain overall independence. When thinking about possible future needs, 40% relay that they expect a family member to step up to assist; although McKnight’s Senior Living Perspective reports that only 25% have broached that subject with their children.

In reality, some of these projections may be a little too optimistic. Here are the average rates of usage of long term care from Keep in mind, we are only talking SNF, not assisted living in these averages.

Optimistic Thinking

  • No Need for Long Term Care: 22%
  • For 0-1 Year: 35%
  • For 1-3 Years: 24%
  • For more than 3 Years: 19%

In an article in the Washington Post, Jason Millman stated that 60% of people between the ages of 45 and 60 speculated that they would never need healthcare, when in fact, 68% of people 65 and above will need healthcare at some time in their future.

As leaders in senior living, we must heed the London subway warning:“mind the gap.” It is our job and our duty to broach these unpleasant subjects so that our prospects can be optimistic without putting their head in the sand. Let us talk about the “what-ifs” of life and talk together about strategies to face them in the best way possible. As diligent leaders, we should also grapple with the challenges of how we might serve as a bridge over the developing, and ever-increasing gaps.

Tune into the March 12th blog which addresses the affordability gap.

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