Well-Being Longevity

Majority of adults over 50 report being caregivers for other seniors: poll

“The challenges of helping someone you know as they grow older should not be underestimated, but neither should the potential rewards.”

Story at a glance

  • A new poll carried out by the University of Michigan underscores the important role adults over 50 play in providing care for seniors.

  • Fifty-four percent of those polled said they’ve helped an individual aged 65 or older with personal, health and/or other tasks within the past two years. 

  • The vast majority of caregivers said they were not paid for their help. 

Over half of adults aged 50 and older say they’ve helped at least one senior in the past two years, providing assistance with health, personal hygiene, home tasks or finances.

That’s according to results of a new poll carried out by the University of Michigan with support from AARP. 

Results also showed more than 70 percent of participants said they’ve provided help to a person they don’t live with, including neighbors, relatives or parents. 

“The challenges of helping someone you know as they grow older should not be underestimated, but neither should the potential rewards,” said Courtney Polenick in a release. Polenick is an assistant professor of psychiatry and caregiving researcher at Michigan Medicine who worked with the poll team. 

“These data show the importance of supporting those who help our nation’s oldest adults. Not only have 54% of people over 50 done this in the past two years during the pandemic, but about two-thirds of that group are actively doing it right now.”

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Around one-third of respondents said they’ve been providing care to other seniors for five or more years, while about 40 percent said they’ve helped more than one senior.

Almost all of the caregiving reported is unpaid, while 96 percent of those providing the care say they get something positive out of the experience. More than half said they feel appreciated when providing care and that it made them more aware of their own future care and health needs.

However, many reported caregiving was more difficult than expected, especially when caring for older adults with specific needs or who have cognitive impairment. Challenges included emotional or physical fatigue and difficulties balancing work and other responsibilities.  

All participants were between the ages 50 and 80. The poll asked specifically about help provided to seniors aged 65 or older. Tasks included food shopping, house cleaning, bathing and dressing, among others. A total of 2,163 adults completed the poll during July 2022. 

“I see this routinely in my primary care practice, and I know the value that spouses, grown children and close friends can bring to the health and well-being of older adults,” said poll director Jeffrey Kullgren. “But there is almost no formal mechanism for our society to recognize or compensate them for what they do.” 

Many respondents reported helping seniors with health-related tasks, including accompanying seniors to appointments or communicating with health care providers on the senior’s behalf.

Research has shown caregivers assisting older adults with medications and navigating health insurance coverage can help seniors more effectively manage chronic conditions or receive preventive care, authors wrote.

“If you are not currently a caregiver, at some point in your life you either will be a caregiver or need a caregiver,” said Indira Venkat, senior vice president at AARP Research.

“It’s important that we consider the unique needs of caregivers and ensure they have the support to care for themselves as well as their loved ones.”