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AARP Releases New Quality-of-Life Index for 50+ America

AARP today released the first-ever annual "AARP Quality of Life Index" of people aged 50 and above. It shows that over the past decade, life for boomers and their parents has generally improved. However, there are some striking vulnerabilities.

Read full report: The State of 50+ America

Americans aged 50 to 64 improved on every economic measure over the decade. Older individuals (65+) improved on most measures, except that their share of income from sources other than Social Security declined, and their employment rate and self-reported health status also decreased.

The picture is more negative when the focus is on the immediate past. Both age groups have suffered financial and health care setbacks.

"The new report gives us a clear snapshot of 50 and over America," said AARP Board Member Jennie Chin For Many, Life is Improving; But Vulnerabilities Remain

Hansen. "Using any number of yardsticks, life has improved for many in recent years. But serious weaknesses remain, and must be addressed."

John Rother, AARP's Director of Policy and Strategy, noted that with the stock market boom of the 90s, retirees could have been expected to get more of their income from sources other than Social Security. But the report showed that the percentage of those 62 and older who receive a majority of their income from non-Social Security sources actually declined slightly over the 10 year period by nearly one percentage to just half (49.9 percent).

"Financial protection that cannot be outlived is still crucial for most older Americans," Rother said. "Social Security provides – and must continue to provide – a secure income base for millions of Americans."

Based on 20 indicators, the "quality of life index" in AARP's "State of 50+ America" describes the well-being of these generations, noting whether their lives are getting better or worse.

Among the financial highlights of the report are:

  • The number covered by pension plans increased nearly 10 percent from 45.5 to 49.2 percent over the decade, but fewer than half are now covered.
  • Median family income rose nearly 12 percent to $35,800 over the last decade. But the proportion achieving a minimally adequate standard of living – the percent of the 50+ population above 200 percent of the poverty level – improved only four percentage points to 71.7 percent in that period. For those over the age of 65, more than one-third (38 percent) do not reach that level. For those between 50 and 64, one in five or (20 percent) do not reach the minimal standard.


The health care picture is mixed, with both good news and bad news. The findings include:

  • Forty-seven percent reported their health as " excellent " or " very good, " an increase of two percentage points from a decade ago. Those in both age groups made progress over the decade, but there is a disparity between the groups. For those between 50 and 64, 45.5 percent do not report excellent or very good health, while the figure for those 65 and over who do not report excellent or very good health is 61.9 percent.
  • The percentage who engage in physical activity increased nearly two percentage points to 25.4 percent, but that is still only one-quarter of those 50 and older. Most recent available figures show that 28.9 percent of younger individuals report physical activity, while only 21 percent of the 65+ group do so.
  • But nearly half (46 percent) are providing care to a family member or loved one. And caregiving involves substantial burdens for about 10 percent of those 50+.


AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our quarterly publication for Hispanic members; NRTA Live and Learn for National Retired Teachers Association members; and our Web site, We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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