Despite wide-ranging concerns about getting older, most Americans want to live longer than the current average. But not too much longer.
If it were up to them, Americans on average would like to live to be 87 years old -- nine years older than current life expectancy. But there's a limit: Just a quarter volunteer that they'd like to live to 100 or older. And even if medical breakthroughs made living to 120 possible, most would say no thanks.
| Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS. |
Quality of life is a major concern. One reason more people don't want to live to 100 is that most -- nearly two-thirds of adults -- don't think they could be that old and still enjoy a good quality of life. That consideration has a strong influence on desired longevity.
Top concerns about aging include poor health, being unable to care for yourself and losing mental acuity. Lack of money, being unable to travel and being a burden on others are among the mid-tier concerns, while lowest on the list are being alone and -- in a very distant last place -- losing your looks. Beauty clearly is just skin deep.
This ABC News/USA Today poll supports a joint reporting project on longevity, "Living Longer, Living Better," airing on ABC News programs the week of Oct. 24.
Despite wishes for longevity, aging concerns clearly are widespread: Ninety-two percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about at least one of the 10 items tested in this survey, and 64 percent are concerned about five or more of them.
Concerns About Aging -- Top Tier
|Losing your health||73%|
|Losing ability to care for yourself||70|
|Losing mental abilities||69|
Concerns About Aging -- Mid Tier
|Running out of money||60%|
|Not being able to drive/travel on own||59|
|Being a burden on your family||54|
|Winding up in a nursing home||52|
|Not being able to work or volunteer||49|
Concerns About Aging -- Lower Tier
|Losing your looks||22|
Interestingly, seniors are less concerned across the board about aging than are those under 65 (with the exception of concerns about the ability to drive and travel independently, on which people over and under 65 rank about equally). Averaging results across the 10 items on the list, 45 percent of seniors express concern about these aging issues, compared with 57 percent of adults younger than 65. Being older apparently is less daunting than just thinking about it.
As noted, concerns about aging play directly into desires for longevity. Among people who think it's very likely they could live to 100 and still enjoy a good quality of life, 56 percent indeed would like to live that long. Among those who think a good quality of life is unlikely at 100, far fewer -- just 17 percent -- want to see the day.
But other factors also come into play. Most people see a long life as a worthy goal: Nearly two-thirds say it's worth it to practice moderation in order to live to 100 (being very careful about your diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and avoiding alcohol and stress). But on the other hand, Americans on average think someone becomes "elderly" at age 71. And the older at which people define being "elderly," the longer they themselves want to live.
Of course there are those at the far end -- even the metaphysical end -- of the spectrum: Asked how long they'd like to live, 7 percent in this poll say "forever."