Two-Thirds of California Voters Are Unprepared for the Costs of Growing Older

By Bezaitis, Athan | Aging Today, November/December 2011 | Go to article overview

Two-Thirds of California Voters Are Unprepared for the Costs of Growing Older


Bezaitis, Athan, Aging Today


For more than a year, 57-year-old Darice Mori of Los Angeles has been caring for her 95-year-old grandmother, Yayoi Oki, who has balance problems and severe dementia.

While Mori works, she places Oki at St. Barnabas Senior Services, a nearby adult day healthcare center offering specialized support for those with memory problems. Mori says their services have helped tremendously, but recent state cutbacks to home- and community-based services threaten to leave vulnerable elders with Medi-Cal, like Oki, with few community care options.

Mori fears institutionalization will be the only alternative, but she had promised never to put her grandmother in a nursing home. This pledge has come at a cost: Mori had to move into her grandmother's home, missed significant work time and finds it difficult to make ends meet and save for her future.

"There's no surplus anymore because now what used to be my income and my bills is stretched to cover us both," she said.

Mori is not alone. California's struggling economy has voters cutting back on current expenses and largely unable to save for essential future needs, according to a new poll from The SCAN Foundation and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

A Worried State

In its second year, the poll sought to better understand health and long-term-care issues facing middle-aged voters, given the state's economic crisis and rising number of Californians older than 60-a figure projected to nearly double to 12 million people in the next 25 years.

The poll found that Californians1 regardless of political party or income level, are worried about the costs of growing older. Sixty-six percent of respondents said that they are apprehensive about being able to afford long-term care. Sixty-three percent worry as much about paying for long-term care as they do about paying for their future healthcare.

Nearly half (48 percent) of voters 40 and older said their household income has declined in the past 12 months, and 50 percent said they had to take money out of savings to meet expenses. Forty-one percent have had to cut down on food spending.

"Californians need affordable options to age with dignity and independence so that they can live how they want in the place they call home," said Dr. Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation. "With so many Californians struggling financially today, it is hard for them to think about the future. Yet planning for future needs is an essential component of growing older and necessary for one's personal health, as well as the state's fiscal health, especially given the high cost of long-term care."

Affordability a Key Election Issue

Conducted by Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint, the poll surveyed 1,490 registered California voters, 40 and older, in English and Spanish. Findings show voters have continuing aging-related concerns over the loss of independence (73 percent), losing memory or other mental abilities (70 percent) and worsening health (70 percent).

Living with potentially debilitating health conditions is expensive, yet Californians underestimate their need for support and services. …

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