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Bridging the Gap: Voices of 50+ Washington

More than half of all Washingtonians age 50+ say they don’t have what they need to address their most important challenges or achieve their biggest goals, according to new research by AARP.

AARP recently released the statewide survey exploring the challenges, concerns and dreams of older adults in the state. Top of mind issues ranged from the practical to the personal, but the findings showed older Washingtonians are most concerned about staying healthy – both physically and mentally. More than 9 in 10 Washington adults 50+ say that staying healthy (96%), staying mentally sharp (93%) and having adequate health insurance (90%) are extremely or very important to them. More than 8 in 10 say that receiving Medicare when needed (83%) is extremely or very important.

According to the survey, spending time with family and friends (86%), protecting themselves from consumer fraud (75%), and receiving Social Security when needed (82%) rounded out some of the most important issues.

However, when it came to being prepared to meet those goals the news wasn’t so good. Only about four in ten said they had all they needed to stay mentally sharp (40%), have adequate health care coverage (39%), and spend time with family and friends (39%). Even fewer said they have everything the need to stay healthy (34%), protect themselves from consumer fraud (27%), receive Medicare (27%) and Social Security when needed (27%).

“It’s not surprising that almost every Washingtonian 50+ says staying healthy and connected with their loved ones is important,” said AARP State Director Doug Shadel. “But it is alarming that the overwhelming majority of them don’t think they have what they need to meet those goals. We all have a role to play in bridging that gap.”

Shadel pointed to AARP’s advocacy work in Olympia as an important part of the ongoing effort to help build a more secure future for older Washingtonians and their families.

“While the economy has improved, many of us are still struggling to dig out from the last two years of deep recession,” said Shadel. “Many of the services and programs that protect the health and safety of our communities are on the chopping block amid a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit. We’re working to make sure our more than 925,000 members in Washington have a voice and role in protecting the future of our state.”

According to the survey, more than eight in ten (84%) of Washington adults 50+ worry about one or more consumer protection issues. Nearly three in four (72%) express concern about protecting themselves against identity theft. More than six in ten (63%) say they are concerned about online safety and security, and sixty-percent express concern about protecting themselves from unfair and deceptive business practices.

Shadel said AARP plans on using the survey findings as one of several tools to help guide AARP Washington’s direction in 2011 and beyond. For instance, AARP is launching a statewide outreach effort this spring including local events, telephone town halls and online learning opportunities on a range of topics. “We’ve heard from our members that, while they have concerns about the economy, they are also seeking information on how to start new careers, go back to school, or find and explore a new hobby,” said Shadel. “Others have expressed an interest in learning more about social media and connecting with grandkids – these are all topics we plan on covering in this new outreach effort.”

The random digit dial telephone survey of 403 Washington residents aged 50+ was fielded between Jan. 2 and 31, 2011 and has a sampling error of plus/minus 5%. The full report is available online.