As the winter holidays approach, most Americans say they're optimistic about the future when it comes to personal finance, health issues and the status of the country, according to the latest AARP Bulletin poll.
On health matters, 79 percent of adults ages 18 to 49 and 75 percent of people age 50 and older said they were positive. A wider gap was exposed on finances — 68 percent of younger folks and 60 percent of older adults said they were optimistic, the poll found.
On their community, those 50-plus were more positive, 76 percent versus 72 percent. Optimism about their family drew about the same response from all ages — 86 percent.
But not everyone was hopeful. Of the 1,004 adults polled in October, more older adults said they were very or somewhat pessimistic about their future compared with those under age 50 on health (16 percent versus 8 percent), finances (28 percent versus 18 percent), the country (33 percent versus 24 percent) and their community (13 percent versus 11 percent).
Donald Kuntz, 53, a self-employed contractor in Ekalaka, Mont., says he's optimistic about his own future but his outlook on the economy is less than rosy. He worries about rising gas prices and health insurance premiums.
"I don't think the economy will get much better. The cost of health care just keeps going up. We had to jump our deductible up three times the amount it was" to get the premium down, he says. "It's gone through the roof."
Though health care costs continue to rise faster than inflation, most survey respondents were optimistic about medical advances, saying they believe breakthroughs in the treatment of certain diseases would occur within five years.
Older adults were more upbeat than younger people regarding a breakthrough in diabetes (69 percent versus 59 percent), cancer (65 percent versus 55 percent), Alzheimer's (58 percent versus 47 percent) and AIDS (55 percent versus 40 percent), the poll said.
Among all ages, the majority of those polled also believed that most people will be eating healthy foods (57 percent) and exercising regularly (53 percent) within the next five years. But only 45 percent predicted that most people will cut back on high-fat foods.
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.