Live Long and Prosper?

Living longer is, as Martha Stewart would say, “A good thing.”  Living longer and maintaining a high quality of life through those later years is a really good thing and a recent report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics says that this is exactly what older Americans can expect.

Of course, that long and healthy life comes along with a hefty price tag in terms of medical care and prescription drugs.  Alas, there is no proverbial free lunch here.  But the extra years are a nice bonus!

The report, called “Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being,” looked at 37 health indicators, including economic status, income, housing, illness, and physical activity in people over age 65.  Data for the study came from a variety of government agencies, including the National Institute on Aging, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

A few of the key findings of the report include:

  • Seniors with no chronic health conditions spend about $5,000 a year on health care, while those living with multiple chronic health conditions are spending closer to $25,000 per year.
  • Luckily only about 5% of seniors report that they delay getting medical care due to costs, and less than 3% report difficulty getting care.
  • The largest component of healthcare costs was hospital and physician spending, following by long-term care facilities, then prescription drug cost.
  • Prescription costs for seniors increased from about $600 in 1992 t o over $2000 in 2004.  By 2006 more than half of out of pocket health spending for seniors was for prescriptions.
  • Seniors report slightly more hospitalizations, but shorter in-patient stays.  They also say they are visiting the doctor’s office slightly more frequently.

The good news is that a person who is 65 today can expect to live until about 83, four years longer than life expectancy in the 1960s.  And those four years are likely to be better ones as functional limitations are less problematic and health later in life is improving all the time.

All of this adds up to more motivation than ever to fund your retirement account!  Your years may be long, but those bills might be high!  Plan now and you’ll be able to make the most of the extra time later!

04. August 2010 by Ruth Folger Weiss
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