National survey results highlight a desire to be cared for at home, as well as the need for accessible and affordable home-based services

Falls Church, VA, May 10, 2021—What does it take to live independently—today and in the future—as we grow older? The recent pandemic forced everyone, including older adults, to think about how we live and what we need to remain safely in place…from help with daily living to healthcare.

To find out whether such a dramatic life shift has had an effect on what baby boomers—plus some older adults from GenX and the Silent Generation—think about where they want to live, how they want to live, and what support they might need, we asked. Capital Caring Health, a leading nonprofit provider of elder, advanced illness, and hospice care, partnered with WebMD, a leading online resource of health information to field a national survey.

Nearly 90% of adults over age 50—across all age, race, income, and health status categories—want to remain at home and “age in place.”

Despite this overwhelming number, few are aware of how to do that safely.

The new random online survey of 3,464 adults over age 50 (the majority of which were baby boomers) revealed information about current lifestyles, expectations for the future, and knowledge about different living and care options including aging in place, advanced illness, and hospice care. Some results revealed a knowledge gap that could create a barrier to getting needed care. Responses varied by race, income, and self-reported health status.

“Our hope is that insights from this research on the preferences, knowledge, and attitudes of older adults serve as a call to action,” says Tom Koutsoumpas, president and CEO of Capital Caring Health. “We are committed to improving public awareness of the care options—usually home-based—seniors want. That means dispelling myths and providing actionable information to individuals and families dealing with serious or terminal illness and improve access for all.”

Almost 90% of adults over age 50 currently live in their own home (78%) or the home of a family member or someone outside the family (10%). While this is true for the majority—regardless of age—individuals aged 80+ are more likely to live in a retirement community or assisted living facility.

Older adults were also asked about their familiarity with different types of living situations including “aging in place,” assisted living, hospice and long-term care facilities. Awareness of different living options available as they age drops with income and self-rated health status. Those older adults with “fair” or “poor” health are the least familiar with options and 20% with household incomes below $50,000 are “not very familiar” or “not at all familiar” with aging in place as well as other living situations.

Growing older often involves addressing health issues, including serious conditions. When it comes to care options for serious or life-limiting illness, over 50% of older adults believe they know “some” or “a lot” about hospice. They are most knowledgeable that care can be provided in either the home or the hospital. About the same number are also familiar with the range of hospice services including care coordination, grief support, spiritual, and respite care.

The majority of older adults surveyed also know about advanced illness/palliative care and services, including that curative care—care designed to treat an illness—can be offered concurrently with palliative care, which manages pain and other symptoms.

However, with such care there’s still a knowledge gap—older adults with reported lower health status (“good/fair/poor”) and household incomes below $50,000 generally feel less knowledgeable about hospice care services. With advanced illness/palliative care, nearly one-third of older adults were not aware that care can be provided at any stage of a serious illness. The same percentage didn’t realize that care also includes non-medical services such as help with insurance issues, scheduling appointments, arranging transportation, patient/family communication, and more.

Capital Caring Health (CCH) knows well the difference such care can make to the quality of life for patients and their families at this most difficult time. Survey respondents agreed about the value of hospice:

More than nine in 10 surveyed report that “comfort and relief from pain at the end of patients’ lives,” “a dedicated care team overseeing the care of patients,” and “different care settings (e.g., the home, hospital, extended care facility)” are “very important” or “important.”

Older adults more likely to need advanced illness or hospice care—with a health status of “fair” or “poor” —may also be from communities of color. That’s the health rating for nearly one out of three older Black adults, a much higher rate than Whites and Hispanics. Yet, national hospice utilization rates are exceptionally low for minorities and the LGBTQ community: 8.2% for Blacks, 6.4% for Hispanics and 1.7% for Asians—compared to 82.5% for Whites.

For CCH Chief of Communications, Marketing and Philanthropy Steve Cone, informing seniors and their families about accessible and affordable home-based services available in their own communities is part of the mission—important whether they are home-limited due to disability, facing advanced illness, or in need of end-of-life care and support. He adds, “Information gleaned from this new survey from WebMD will make a difference to how we shape our public outreach.”

The survey also asked baby boomers and other older adults about caregivers and what type of in-home care and support they might need now and in the future. Attitudes and use of home-based technology for health such as telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring was also queried. Regarding top concerns, issues that topped the list included not being able to cover healthcare costs, not being prepared for a healthcare or financial emergency, and death of a spouse.

Survey results will prove useful to Capital Caring Health and to other healthcare providers. “Our organization has a long history of providing evidence-based information to consumers and providers to enhance decision-making,” states John Whyte, M.D., MPH, and chief medical officer for WebMD. “This information is especially timely given the new focus on our aging population as a result of the pandemic experience.”

Finally, from public and personal reports, experience during the pandemic may have delivered at least part of what baby boomers and other older adults want: overwhelmingly, emotional support is the leading type of support those aged 50+ get or expect to get from their family as they age, at 65%.

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About CCH

Capital Caring Health is one of the leading nonprofit providers of elder health, hospice, and advanced illness care for persons of all ages in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. We annually serve over 7,000 hospice patients and provide more than $3 million in charity care to those who are uninsured and have nowhere else to turn. Almost 90 cents out of every dollar goes to caring for patients and their families. capitalcaring.org

About WebMD

WebMD is the leading online provider of health information and services to consumers and healthcare professionals. By providing objective healthcare and lifestyle information, we help consumers take an active role in managing their health, on their own. For physicians and healthcare professionals, we make it easier to access clinical reference sources, stay abreast of the latest clinical information, learn about new treatment options, earn continuing medical education credits, and communicate with peers. webmd.com

To learn more about the survey results and aging options, request our “What Baby Boomers Want” guide and view our program… What Baby Boomers Want: Living Independently Now and In The Future.