Almost two-thirds (64%) of women ages 50-plus have volunteered either formally or informally in the past year, according to a survey conducted in 2018 (compared to 72% of men, although not a statistically significant difference).
Women age 65 and older who volunteer are more likely than men in their age group to volunteer on at least a monthly basis (64% vs. 41%).
While the top reasons for volunteering for women and men ages 50-plus are the same (to help a cause you personally believe in and to make a difference), women 50-plus are more likely than men to place importance on doing something they are passionate about, being personally affected by the cause, and learning new skills/experiencing new things.
The top barriers to volunteering for women ages 50-plus are health problems, family obligations, and work/career obligations.
Women 50-plus are more likely than men 50-plus to be interested in volunteering from home, volunteering with their family, and volunteering in small increments of time.
Women ages 50-plus make up a large and increasing share of registered voters. These women also turn out at a high rate and are a key swing voting bloc.
Just two months prior to the election in September, only half (49%) of women voters 50 and over say they have made up their mind about who they will vote for. One-in-five (20%) are still waiting until election day or several days before to make their decision. And while they may be undecided about who they are voting for, women voters 50 and over are extremely motivated to vote, with 82% of women voters rating themselves a 10 on a scale of 0 (not motivated to vote) to 10 (very motivated to vote.)
According to focus group findings from May 2022, women over 50 are lamenting the state of the country, particularly its political divisions. While some women are enjoying their careers, hobbies, or grandchildren, many describe medical worries, financial pressures, bias and discrimination, and a sense that “their golden years” are not what they expected. Almost to a person, women feel unheard by politicians today, and many describe themselves as “invisible” at work and in public life.
In a series of surveys in targeted Congressional districts and 10 battleground states, the majority of 50-plus women voters think the country is going in the wrong direction (range 62% to 85%).
The economy and finances are a major concern for women voters 50 and over. A majority (52%) say the economy is not working well for them, a 15 point change from 2019, when just 37% of women said the economy was not working well for them. Most are worried about their current financial situation (range 54% to 75%.)
When thinking about inflation and rising costs, food and gasoline prices were the most common causes of concern, followed by housing and the costs of healthcare and prescription drugs.
As a response to higher costs of living, two-thirds of women voters 50-plus have cut back on nonessential purchases, 41% have cut back on essential purchases, and 40% have taken money out of savings. And 72% of respondents reported taking at least one action this year to increase income or reduce spending due to higher costs of living.
Significant majorities of women voters ages 50-plus give elected officials D/F grades on issues including prices rising faster than income (82%), crime (78%), immigration (75%), cost of health care and prescription drugs (75%), and the wage gap between rich and poor (71%).
When thinking about the most important issue for deciding their vote in Congress and for governor, abortion and inflation were each mentioned as a top concern in nine of the 10 battleground states surveyed. Among concerns in Congressional races, an economic issue was cited by around one-third of respondents (range 18% to 36%) and in Governors’ races, an economic issue was cited by around four in 10 (range 21% to 49%).
Nearly half of older women voters say that threats to democracy (48%) and voting rights (48%) are one of the most important issues in determining their vote in this year’s elections. Following these are inflation and rising prices (44%), division in the country (43%) and Social Security and Medicare (41%).
Both Social Security and Medicare are very important to women voters 50 and older. More than three-quarters rate Social Security as extremely or very important when deciding their vote (range 76% to 88%) and more than two-thirds rate Medicare as extremely or very important (range 69% to 85%). Similarly, the vast majority of women 50+ voters are more likely to vote for candidates who say they will protect Medicare (range 85% to 96%) or Social Security (range 84% to 94%) from cuts. Three-quarters say that protecting Social Security from cuts would personally help them a lot.
By more than a two-to-one margin, women voters 50-plus want a politician who is willing to work together to get things done, even if the result is an occasional compromise that goes against voters' values (67%), over a politician who consistently fights for voters’ values but doesn't often find a solution (30%).
A majority of women surveyed (75% of those 18–49 and 63% of those 50-plus) say they experience discrimination regularly.
The top reason among women ages 50-plus who experience discrimination “at least sometimes” is age (48%), while for those ages 18–49, race/ethnicity/skin tone is the most prominent type of discrimination (54%). Women under 50 have often felt treated unfairly for “being too young,” while older women have felt disrespected for “being too old.”
Discriminatory behavior carries over into the workplace as well. The research shows that 81% of working women ages 50-plus and 92% of those 18–49 who experience discrimination regularly have been told to look or act a certain way at work.
About half of younger women (52%) say encountering discrimination contributes to a low-to-moderate state of mental wellness, compared to 32% of women ages 50-plus who felt that same impact. Incidents involving their weight, some other aspect of their physical appearance, and social class are among the more prominent types of discrimination affecting women’s mental health, the survey found.
Roughly one in three (34%) women ages 50-plus are very or somewhat worried about their current financial situation, compared to just one in four (25%) men.
The higher rate of worry among women persists within subgroups. While nearly four in ten (38%) women ages 50–64 are worried, just three in ten (29%) men ages 50–64 are. Among women who are divorced, separated, or widowed, roughly four in ten (41%) are worried. However, among men who are divorced, separated, or widowed, just three in ten (31%) are worried.
Women ages 50-plus who are worried about their current financial situation are more likely than men to cite the cost of living (41% women vs. 31% men), living paycheck to paycheck (35% vs. 24%), difficulty managing money (14% vs. 9%), and being unable to depend on others for support (38% vs. 30%).
Women (33%) ages 50-plus are more likely than men (23%) to say that an unexpected expense of $1,000 would be a major setback. In fact, 42% of women ages 50–64 express this view.
Fewer than one in five (17%) adults 50-plus are “very confident” that they will have enough money throughout retirement. Women (12%) are roughly half as likely as men (22%) to be very confident. The lower retirement confidence among women persists within subgroups. Among adults ages 50–64, just 9% of women are very confident, compared to 16% of men. Among adults age 65-plus, just 16% of women are very confident, compared to 30% of men.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread impact on women workers ages 40–65. According to a survey conducted in June 2021, while 41% of these women workers have experienced some type of job interruption since the beginning of 2020, 14% of midcareer and older women workers lost a job. More African American and Hispanic women lost jobs than did white or Asian American women.
Women workers ages 40–65 face long-term unemployment. Nearly 70% of women who were still unemployed had been out of work for six months or more.
Interruptions in work led to financial uncertainty. One quarter of midcareer and older women workers have seen their financial situation worsen over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even among those who are employed, concerns for the future and underemployment exist. About one in five (21%) women 40–65 who are working are underemployed, meaning they work fewer hours than they would like. Many more African American, Hispanic, and Asian American women are underemployed than white women.
Providing care to others can exacerbate already-tenuous job situations. Nearly three in ten midcareer and older women in the workforce report having taken care of a child or grandchild who was home during COVID for remote schooling. This caregiving impacted work, most commonly including working only certain shifts/hours (24%) and inability to work full-time (20%).
Age discrimination in hiring and in the workforce persist. Over half of women have looked for a job since turning 40. Of those, nearly one third (31%) cite age discrimination as an impediment to finding a job, the most common type of discrimination by far.
Many women age 40-plus feel that 2020 took a serious toll on their mental and physical health, according to a study published in May 2021. However, despite the pandemic, most women age 40-plus (58%) feel their health has stayed the same over the past two years.
Roughly one-third (36%) of women age 40-plus feel their overall health is “very good” or “excellent,” especially women 60-plus (41%) and those earning $75,000 or more (54%), but this view varies depending on the respondent’s type of insurance. More than two in five women who access health care through the Veterans Health Administration (49%) or Medicaid (43%) say they are in “fair” or “poor” health.
Predominant maladies vary depending on age. Women in their 40s most often experience anxiety (49%) or depression (39%), women in their 50s most often have anxiety (39%) or arthritis (35%), and women 60-plus most often have high blood pressure (46%) and arthritis (42%).
One- quarter (27%) of women age 40-plus had recently spoken with their health care provider about exercise. Their top concerns were maintaining a healthy weight (42%) and muscle mass and strength (32%) as they age. While one in ten (11%) women say they always exercise — rising to one in seven of those 60-plus (15%) — others cite being tired and lacking energy (43%), health problems (29%), bad weather (24%), and not having anyone to exercise with (17%) as the biggest barriers to exercise.
Despite the challenges to emotional and mental well-being, most older adults say they are resilient and expect to be able to bounce back from these challenges. However, there are significant differences between men and women ages 50 and older.
For example, women ages 50-plus are significantly more likely than men ages 50-plus to say that in the two weeks prior to the survey they had been bothered by feelings of anxiousness and had feelings of depression and hopelessness. Older women are also significantly more likely than older men to say the pandemic increased their level of anxiety, stress, and sadness/depression.
The encouraging news is older women are also significantly more likely than older men to say they believe they will get better at managing their negative emotions in the next six months. While women are more likely than men to say they experience these negative feelings often, they are also more likely to say they would like to speak to a mental health professional to help them manage these emotions.
Further, mental health issues are a serious concern for younger and lower income women and women on Medicaid, according to a study published in May 2021. More than two in five women ages 40-plus (43%) describe their mental health as “very good” or “excellent,” though women 60-plus are much more likely to say this (57%) than their younger counterparts. In fact, two in five women in their 40s categorize their mental health as “fair” (28%) or “poor” (13%), and one in five (20%) say they have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things every day for the past two weeks — a symptom of depression — and nearly as many admit to feeling outright depressed, hopeless, or down (18%). A myriad of pandemic-related factors may contribute to this disproportionate effect on younger women: financial fears, loss of employment, or the pressures of homeschooling children. Also, older women may say they feel mentally healthy because they may be less familiar with mental health symptoms and conditions than younger women.
Women in their 40s are more concerned about depression than women 60-plus (41% vs. 13%); Medicaid recipients (40%) are more concerned than those with employer-provided (20%) or individual health insurance (31%); and those earning less than $30,000 are more concerned than those earning $75,000 (33% vs. 17%).
As of February 2022, around one-third of women ages 50-plus (34%) said they were extremely or very interested in using telehealth services themselves or for a loved one. Women ages 50-plus (17%) were more likely than men ages 50-plus (10%) to be extremely interested.
Half of women ages 50-plus (54%) said they or a family member had used telehealth in the past two years. Women were less likely than men to report they or a family member had not used telehealth (39% vs. 48%).
The top reason for women ages 50-plus who have used telehealth to have used (or want to use) the service is for routine visits to the doctor (69%). The top barrier women ages 50-plus have experienced when using telehealth (or anticipate experiencing) is concern that the quality of care is not as good as with in-person visits (29%).
A third of women ages 50-plus say they are extremely or very likely (34%) to use telehealth in the future for at least some medical appointment.
For caregivers, positive emotions such as a sense of purpose often coexist with feelings of isolation, stress, or strain.
Women who provide care are more likely than men to be stressed (39% vs. 33% of men who are caregivers).
Women caregivers report a greater reliance on friends and family (47% vs. 38% of men caregivers).
Women caregivers are spending more than men caregivers on medical costs, particularly co-pays to providers. They also report higher out-of-pocket costs on home modifications. Men caregivers, on the other hand, report higher costs for both assisted-living fees and rent or mortgage payments. Overall, caregivers are spending roughly $7,000 on caregiving expenses, with men caregivers spending a slightly higher amount than women caregivers; however, women experience higher financial strain owing to lower annual incomes.
The most common caregiving arrangement is a woman providing care for a woman. Women, on average, have lower incomes and the cost of providing care for a woman is higher, suggesting this type of caregiving relationship could lead to a significant financial strain. Women caregivers are also spending more hours per week caregiving.
Gender disparities are large for Hispanic/Latino and Asian American caregivers. Hispanic/Latino and Asian American women caregivers experience much higher financial strain than men.
Half of adults ages 50-plus are aware that Medicare does not cover long-term care services, but women are more likely than men (52% vs. 40%) to believe that it does.
While seven in ten (69%) women ages 50-plus recognize the likelihood of needing assistance as they age, only three in ten (29%) say they have given serious thought to how they will live independently if they need assistance with their daily activities.
Women are prioritizing health over beauty, focusing more on inner peace than outer beauty. The pandemic has made many women more comfortable with a relaxed appearance, including while working. Many women hope relaxed beauty standards will continue after the pandemic ends.
57% of women 50-plus say they have “focused on my health more than my appearance.”
Nearly four in ten (38%) women 50-plus feel that their beauty and personal grooming routine has become less important since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Around one fifth (19%) of women 50-plus think that it is likely that these new standards of beauty for women established during the pandemic will continue after the pandemic ends.
Women are experiencing a disconnect between how they feel about themselves as they age and how age is represented in media and advertising. Most women feel more comfortable with themselves as they get older and wish beauty and personal grooming ads had more realistic images of women their age.
68% of women 18–49 and 76% of women 50 and older agree that “I feel more comfortable in my own skin as I age.”
84% of women 18–49 and 91% of women 50 and older agree that “I wish beauty and personal grooming ads had more realistic images of women my age.”
Women, regardless of age, prefer brands that use a mix of ages in advertising and think women their age are typecast. Older women are particularly likely to think their age group is underrepresented in advertising.
Over three quarters of women “prefer to buy from brands that feature a mix of ages in their ads” (women 18–49: 78%, women 50-plus: 81%).
55% of women 18–49 and 86% of women 50-plus feel that “women my age are under-represented in ads.”
Women of all ages have embraced technology in all its many forms, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some meaningful distinctions between older and younger women’s familiarity, use, and comfort with it.
A majority of women use their smartphones to perform banking-related activities (18–49: 81%; 50–59: 68%; 60–69: 61%, 70+: 36%), with the computer being a close second (18–49: 47%; 50–59: 54%; 60–69: 56%, 70+, 66%).
The vast majority of women — regardless of age (18–49: 81%; 50–59: 80%; 60–69: 78%, 70+, 69%) — rely on technology to stay connected with friends and family and want to do more of this (18–49: 65%; 50–59: 65%; 60–69: 72%, 70+: 57%).
Even though most women own Smart TVs (18–49: 73%; 50–59: 70%; 60–69: 75%,
70+: 50%), this is not the only way women are consuming entertainment content, but this does vary with age. A majority of those 18–49 (53%) and two in five of those 50–59 (41%) use their smartphones to stream movies and TV shows, while one-third of those 50–59 (34%) and 60–69 (34%) prefer to stream on their tablets.
More women age 50-plus than men play video games and do so most often on a mobile device.
Women ages 50-plus (49%) are more likely than men ages 50-plus (39%) to play video games, with three-quarters of men (76%) and even more women (81%) playing at least once a week. In fact, women (53%) are more likely than men (39%) to play every day, and women are also more likely than men to play games online (60% and 52%, respectively).
More women ages 50-plus than men enjoy card and tile games like Solitaire, Hearts, and Mahjong (50% women, 44% men), and games of logic like Sudoku, Tetris, and Candy Crush (58% women, 38% men), but men are more likely than women to like playing poker, casino, or arcade games (30% men, 24% women).
While the majority of men and women ages 50-plus play video games to have fun, more women than men play to relieve stress and stay mentally sharp. Almost three-quarters of women (72%) ages 50-plus play video games while doing something else, like watching TV. Roughly one-half prefer to play video games in the evening (52% men and 55% women). Seven in ten women play video games right before going to bed, at least sometimes (62% men, 70% women).