An overwhelming majority of older Americans are concerned about the coronavirus, according to the results of a new AARP poll. The survey clearly shows that the pandemic has affected the 50-plus population's health, lifestyle and financial security.
"Older Americans realize the impact of this virus,” said Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for governmental affairs. “They're deeply, deeply concerned about it; they're very worried for their own health care, worried about the health of their loved ones.”
The survey, conducted for AARP by NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan research organization, also clearly shows that African Americans and Hispanics are the most worried about COVID-19. Among all those polled, 75 percent of African Americans, 65 percent of Hispanics and 59 percent of non-Hispanic whites said they are very concerned about the pandemic.
"I think certainly we've seen that there are inequities in our health care system that have resulted in really tragic disparities in the mortality rates for this virus across different racial and ethnic groups,” Sweeney said.
According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in states that have reported coronavirus data by ethnicity, African Americans accounted for a higher share of confirmed cases in 20 of 31 states and of COVID-19 deaths in 19 of 24 states than their share of the state's total population.
"I think the idea that essentially that 94 percent of this age group are concerned, or somewhat concerned at this point, is fairly extraordinary,” said J. Michael Dennis, executive director of AmeriSpeak, the department at NORC that conducted the survey. “Usually in surveys you don't find numbers that are that high.” Dennis also said that compared to the overall population, “we see adults age 50 and over as having substantially higher levels of concern and worry about the pandemic."
The poll surveyed 2,796 older Americans on April 20 and 21 on questions including how concerned they were about the virus, how the pandemic has affected them personally and what measures Congress should take to respond to this public health emergency.
Here's a look at some other key findings of this survey.
Virus fears are widespread
The results also showed that nearly 1 in 5 respondents are very worried that one of their existing health conditions will put them at a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus and that 17 percent worry they won't be able to care for a family member or friend.
Dennis called this “one of the major findings of this survey because this is the population that has the most to lose in terms of mortality and other health risks. These are the people who are seeing actual heartfelt consequences for them and their family."
The virus has affected aspects of older Americans’ lives beyond health, the poll finds. “At AARP we've heard from people all over the country, and one of the things we've heard the most is real financial devastation, especially among people who are retired and have seen huge, huge losses in their retirement accounts across the board,” Sweeney said. “So, there is a really, really serious financial impact of this virus."
50-plus population being careful
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19. And 8 out of 10 deaths from the virus reported in the United States have been in people 65 and older.
"I think it's really remarkable and gives me hope when we see that our older Americans are following the social distancing guidelines and handwashing,” Sweeney said.