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Friends, family most important to seniors, study suggests

August 1, 2013

Seniors have a lot to take into consideration when crafting the perfect retirement. Healthy aging certainly plays an important role, but everything from expenses to their location can contribute to their quality of life. Although these factors are important, a new survey conducted by the National Council on Aging, USA Today and UnitedHealthcare found that one aspect trumped them all. Seniors cited staying connected to family and friends as the most crucial factor to maintaining a high quality of life as they get older.

Friends and family, not finances
The poll, known as the United States of Aging Survey, drew on responses from 4,000 people aged 60 or older. Approximately 40 percent of participants said that their relationships with friends and family were most likely to improve their quality of life. About 30 percent said that financial security was at the top of their list. As for how they plan to stay connected to their loved ones, the majority of respondents said that technology has greatly improved their ability to contact friends and family. In fact, 84 percent said technology was important to keeping them tethered to their social lives.

Seniors optimistic
Researchers also uncovered how retirees feel about their ability to maintain a high quality of life as they get older, and many of the respondents are optimistic. Specifically, 86 percent of seniors said they were confident in their ability to keep their quality of life at the same level over the next five to 10 years. Additionally, 60 percent said they expect to be as healthy as they are now during that same time frame. 

Emphasis on active aging
The increased optimism surrounding seniors' ability to stay healthy and maintain a high quality of life may be largely due to a growing focus on the importance of active aging. Whether it's maintaining a strong social circle, volunteering or exercising, seniors have been encouraged to keep their activity levels high. This push has been considerably bolstered by the growing amount of research tying any amount of activity to better health. One such study, out of the Harvard School of Public Health, found that seniors who were socially active tended to delay memory loss and other cognitive issues.