The Well-Being Journal

Inaugural Older Americans Report Looks at Well-Being Among Those Over the Age of 55

Madison Agee

The growing percentage of the American population oolder-americans-cover-thumbver the age of 55 — a trend largely driven by the Baby Boomers entering later life — has important implications for a variety of stakeholders, including families, employers, healthcare providers and policymakers. Greater insight into the well-being of these older Americans is now available with the release of an inaugural report based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.

The report, “State of American Well-Being: State Well-Being Rankings for Older Americans”, examines the comparative well-being of Americans age 55 and older, and reveals that, nationally, adults 55 and older have higher well-being than the rest of the population. The report also ranks the well-being of these older adults in all 50 states.

Older Americans have the highest well-being in the state of Hawaii, followed by Montana, South Dakota, Alaska and Iowa. Well-being for adults age 55 and older is lowest in West Virginia. The other states with low well-being for older adults are Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio and Indiana. You can read more about the rankings here and download a copy of the report here

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. It is the most proven, mature and comprehensive measure of well-being in populations. Previous Gallup and Healthways research shows that high well-being closely relates to key health outcomes such as lower rates of healthcare utilization, lower workplace absenteeism and better workplace performance, change in obesity status and new onset disease burden.

To discover where other states — including yours — fall within the rankings, download a copy of the report today. You can also subscribe to content from the Well-Being Index; by subscribing, we’ll let you know when we release new reports and insights from the Well-Being Index.
Topics: Aging Seniors Well-Being Index

The Changing Face of the Caregiver

Sophie Leveque

Historically, when older loved ones were in need of caregiving, they didn’t have to look very far. There was usually a close family member who could easily step into the role. But, over the last several decades, much has changed when it comes to who fulfills the role of caregiver. It’s no longer a given that a dutiful daughter will take on caregiving responsibilities for an aging parent, a shifting tide that can be attributed to a combination of demographic and cultural changes. These changes are also having a profound impact on the caregiver experience.

Some of these shifts include:

  • Shrinking average family size. Fewer children means a smaller pool of caregivers from which to draw. From the caregiver perspective, there are fewer relatives with whom to share responsibilities or turn to when more intervention is needed.

  • Geographic distance. Nowadays, people are more open to moving away from their hometowns for educational, career and personal reasons, often leaving behind their parents and loved ones. This means that older adults don’t have immediate, local assistance, and that their children or younger relatives may often be providing care remotely.
  • Evolving cultural attitudes. Traditional expectations around the duty of younger generations for caring for their older relatives are changing. For example, some cultural traditions dictated that older parents move in with their adult-aged children, but shifting norms may have mitigated some of these cultural pressures. 

  • Employment trends. Historically, daughters whose own children were grown may have assumed the caregiving mantle, but as more women have joined the formal workforce, it has become more difficult for them to take on caregiving responsibilities.

  • More single-person households. If an adult child or loved one becomes a caregiver, there is not always someone within their own household who can “pick up the slack” and tend to normal family and household management.

  • Parents having children later in life. With the age gap widening between generations, modern caregivers may have more non-caregiving responsibilities they have may have had historically. They may be in a stage where their careers need a great deal of attention, may have young children of their own, or may still be finishing school.

  • Longer life expectancies. With advancements in medicine, caregiving is no longer the temporary arrangement it may have once been. Older adults may require more care for longer periods of time.
In a recent Healthways webinar on the relationship between caregiving and well-being, Joe Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab discussed these changing demographic and cultural trends in detail. According to Coughlin, the data suggests that these shifts will only become more marked over time, which, in turn, will only make caregiving more complex.

Infographic provided by Respect a Caregiver's Time (REAct).

Coughlin discussed some fascinating insights into the changing face of the modern caregiver. As he noted, in this new age of caregiving, the caregiver can be anyone: sons, daughters, spouses, friends, or siblings. That said, studies have shown that the responsibility for giving care usually—as it has historically— falls to women. These women are typically the spouse or oldest daughter of the individual needing care and are between the ages of 47 and 57.

But unlike the stereotypical caregiver—who never participated in the formal economy or is retired—we also know that modern day caregivers are often employed. Data from the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® tells us that 13.4 percent of caregivers are full-time employees. And while traditionally caregivers have been middle-aged, Coughlin reports that today’s caregivers may be in a younger age category. As we discussed earlier, with caregivers skewing younger, they’re often working as well. In fact, the Well-Being Index tells us that nearly one in 10 full-time employees under the age of 45 is a caregiver.

As a result, today’s caregivers are often juggling the care of their aging loved ones, which for 25 percent of American families consumes more than 21 hours a week, with workplace responsibilities and their own families (see infographic). As Coughlin explored in our webinar, these multiple time and energy demands can have a dramatic effect on individual well-being, a topic we’re going to address in an upcoming article.

To learn more about shifting demographics around caregiving, as well as its link to well-being, please view our recent webinar, “The Costs of Caring: The Impact of Caregiving on your Population’s Well-Being". Our team of panelists also discussed several strategies for supporting caregivers in your organization.


Topics: Well-Being Aging Caregiving

Bringing the Promise of Well-Being to New Markets

Madison Agee

Once upon a time, if you thought about a person pursuing “well-being,” that may have generated a certain image in your mind: someone who has lots of disposable income, shops at Whole Foods, lives in a suburban community conducive to outdoor exercise, attends exclusive yoga classes in expensive workout wear, is likely under the age of 50 … and so on. Insight from the recent Healthways 2014 Well-Being Summit indicates that this image is rapidly changing.

At the Summit, the founders of Feel Rich, Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman, discussed their company’s mission to bring the message of better well-being to minority and urban communities. These markets have historically been underserved with authentic, connected messaging that educates and excites them about taking steps to improve their well-being.

To achieve their mission, the two entrepreneurs utilize engaging multimedia content delivered by hip-hop artists who are considered trustworthy messengers of change. These artists – many of whom are committed to healthy lifestyles (did you know the rapper Common is a vegan fitness enthusiast?) – promote better well-being to the African-American and Latino markets through relatable imagery and authentic language.

Jones and Ullman’s approach also allows well-being brands that are looking to gain entrance into or further penetrate these markets to connect to their target consumers in a more genuine way. For example, they spearheaded the Johnson & Johnson “Text4Baby” campaign, which provided expecting and new mothers with health advice and information for both themselves and their babies. The mothers were inspired to receive the texts with a promise of a personal lullaby for their new baby sung by actor-model-musical artist Tyrese.

Older adults, too, are tuning in to well-being in growing numbers. Joseph Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab provided the Well-Being Summit audience with an interesting overview of some of the demographics and trends of this expanding population. Generally speaking, this market:

  • Considers itself ill, but not sick — e.g., “I may have high blood pressure, but I’m doing just fine”
  • Has at least some college education
  • Values having health and ability and freedom to still live active lives
  • Is skeptical of information, preferring testimonials and advice from others like them
  • Is committed to working or required to work as long as they can — 40 percent plan to “work until they drop”
  • Is overloaded by information, which is often contradictory
  • Is relatively isolated — 30 percent of people 60+ live alone, and 70 percent of 50+ live in rural areas

Coughlin pointed out that traditional methods of delivering a well-being message to seniors, which are predicated on facts, fear and a prescriptive “this is what’s good for you” approach, don’t work. Instead, organizations and brands trying to reach this demographic should use a more fun, social-oriented framework that:

  • Leverages social networks
  • Speaks in terms of solutions, not just data
  • Encourages life performance instead of illness management
  • Is personal and authentic
  • Is constructed to enable a longer life span versus getting a senior through this life stage

Connecting with these two “non-traditional” markets for well-being products and services – urban/minority and seniors – requires that brands take a new approach. In both instances, authenticity and social engagement are critically important.

Topics: Well-Being Aging Seniors Consumers urban Well-Being Summit Minorities

Meet MIT Age Lab's Sweetheart, AGNES

Jennifer Rudloff

As we age, the way we experience the world around us changes. Getting out of cars, grocery shopping and all of the big and little things that are a part of every day life can be come more difficult.

Enter AGNES: MIT Age Lab's Age Gain Now Empathy System. AGNES allows us to better undersand how these customers are experiencing life and how we can alter the design of their physical environment, and improve our solutions to better fit their needs.

So how does it work? Watch the video to find out!

Topics: Healthy Living In the News Aging Chronic Disease Joseph Coughlin MIT Age Lab Age Gain Now Empathy System AGNES