America’s population is aging. By the year 2030, one in five Americans will be at retirement age. As breakthroughs in medicine and technology continue to help us live longer, what can we do to prepare ourselves for life after retirement?
Anna Maria Chávez, Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer for the National Council on Aging
, joins Sheila Hyland to discuss the NCOA’s mission to educate people about the tools and services available to help Americans age with the best possible health and economic security.
Hyland: There are currently 50 million adults age 65 and over in the United States, and as the national population ages, health and economic-security concerns are rising among older generations of Americans. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Sheila Hyland. Joining me to discuss aging with our best possible health and economic security is Anna Maria Chávez, Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer with the National Council on Aging. Thank you for being our guest today.
Chávez: It´s my honor and pleasure.
Hyland: The average 65-year-old can expect to live another 20 years, but it´s not just about living longer, it´s about living better, but no one teaches us how to age.
Chávez: You know, that really is the case. You know, we clearly have systems in society to teach kids how to become adults, we have universities to teach adults how to get into their next progression of a career, but nobody teaches us how to age well. So we´re very focused on that at the National Council on Aging. How do we prepare everyone for their third stage of life?
Hyland: And let´s start with the misconceptions about aging. We´re not talking about the proverbial rocking chair anymore.
Chávez: Never. You listen to anybody talk about retirement today, it´s almost like, "No, I´m gonna stop this job and career and go to my next." And so we´re really focused on ensuring, one, people understand that they´re more likely to live longer than prior generations, and we´ve got to take care of our body to ensure that we´re living in a way in the future that allows to do the things we want to do.
Hyland: So what are some of the things we can do to age better, at least physically -- and emotionally, as well?
Chávez: The way I think about it is it´s actually almost two pillars of work we have to do, right, our homework as we get older. One is, what are you doing around healthy living? You know, what are you eating? Are you exercising? Are you actually thinking about, "Am I spending too much time by myself? Am I being isolated by my current situation, ´cause maybe I´m not working, and so how am I getting out?" That impacts our ability to age well. The other area is, what are you doing to prepare for your third stage of life, right? Have you invested early on? Are you thinking about, what is it gonna cost to retire well? Am I gonna have to work longer because now I´ve adopted my grandparents -- excuse me -- grandchildren, and I´m having to actually raise them in my home on my retirement income? We´re also finding out that aging disproportionately impacts women because we tend to live longer. We on-ramp and off-ramp our career to be caregivers. So that means that at the end of our career, we´ve saved less for retirement, yet our health-care costs continue to rise, and we have to predict where we´re going to be in the next 20 years.
Hyland: And so many people are living with chronic diseases, as well. What is the National Council on Aging doing to help people who are dealing with something chronic?
Chávez: Right. One of the things I´m very, very happy about is we are a national leader when it actually comes to supporting evidence-based programs around, what are the best ways to actually either prevent chronic disease or how to manage that disease? We´re also very focused, too, on helping seniors understand how to decline the risk or really, actually, help people not fall. So it´s called fall prevention because, again, that leads to other health concerns. So we actually help nonprofits, other organizations across the country lead sessions, workshops in communities to teach seniors how to manage a chronic disease and how to prevent falls in their home.
Hyland: Let´s move forward, too, to something you just mentioned about economic security. One of the biggest concerns is that the elderly don´t have enough money in retirement. Many of them haven´t saved enough. According to the University of Massachusetts Boston, half of older adults living alone and a quarter of adults living in two-elder households lack the resources to pay for basic needs. Where are we in this country, and how is the National Council on Aging addressing that?
Chávez: Right. Well, we´re very focused, one, on getting out the research and data around this, ´cause there´s a misperception. You may see a senior who´s retired in their home, it´s their only asset, so on paper, it looks like they have money. But the reality is, if you subtracted the value of their home and their asset, most seniors in a certain range live on $20,000. You know, that´s hardly, you know, the level to really maintain a healthy lifestyle, to buy the right foods, to get your medications on time. So what we´re trying to educate people is, how do you maybe downsize when you know you´re gonna need to retire? Do you really need a large home? A lot of people, and I know this for a fact, are retiring and figuring out, how do I actually work in the gig economy? As a senior, you know, maybe I want to drive for Lyft part of the day, and maybe I want to start my own consulting business. So we´re teaching seniors through other community partners what are the options, again, to age well.
Hyland: And how are you reaching out to seniors? You´re just a click away, right, if they need more information?
Chávez: So we´re doing it several ways. One, again, for over 60 years, we´ve been the pipeline of information to nonprofits, government, and programs and community about, what are the options? The other thing we´re doing is we´re getting into the digital economy in the sense of we are bringing our expertise, our knowledge, our research, and the knowledge of our community-based partners directly to the consumer through our digital platforms we´re building, which is a very exciting time. And the fact of the matter is, because I have a father who´s about to turn 89 who has a lot of fun on his iPhone, we are actually trying to reach seniors through their digital platforms and their devices because we´re following seniors, and that´s where, actually, a lot of them live. 75 percent of seniors are on Facebook every day, and so, again, another myth that seniors aren´t developing an expertise around our digital platforms.
Hyland: And we encourage them to get online and find out more information. -
Chávez: ncoa.org. -
Hyland: All right. Anna Maria Chávez, thank you so much for being our guest today.
Chávez: It´s a pleasure.
Hyland: And thanks to you for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Sheila Hyland.