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Current Retirees Optimistic About Finances and Future

Life is good? Most retirees think so, at least according to one new survey. Conducted by USA Today, UnitedHealthcare and the National Council on Aging, the poll of Americans age 60 and older found a surprising amount of optimism in a cohort often painted as scared, sad and struggling.

Among the findings:

* Almost two-thirds say the past year has been normal or "better than normal"
* More than two-thirds are confident their finances will last through their retirement years
* More than 60 percent say it's easy to cover monthly living expenses
* 75 percent expect their quality of life to get better or stay the same over the next five to 10 years,
* 85 percent are confident they'll be able to stay in their homes without major modifications
* About 25 percent work full or part time; within this group, 76 percent say its because they want to stay active and productive rather than out of financial necessity

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution,  told USA Today:

People in retirement have dodged a bullet. They've gotten to the promised land in time to avoid all the bad stuff."

Hmmm ... older Americans have faced lost savings, lost homes and other negative repercussions of the recent economic downturn, just like everybody else. Some are seeing promised pensions and retirement health care benefits  threatened or slashed. Of course, that does belie the fact that many of today's retirees have pensions and health coverage to begin with. I'm not sure retirement in 2012 is quite the utopia Frey imagines, but it does confer certain advantages future generations of retirees are unlikely to see.

"I think the era of broad prosperity for American seniors will end with the first wave of baby boomers, now entering their 60s," Frey added. "Times are tougher for their later boomer brothers and sisters who entered the labor and housing markets in the late 1970s during tougher economic times."

Some experts, however, worry that even the optimism shown by older boomers and seniors is misplaced.

"There is a disconnect between attitudes and reality," said Nick Crofoot, president of the market research firm that conducted the survey. "Nobody wants to believe that things are going to get worse for them. ... What that says is that seniors aren't as aware as they could be of some of the health challenges they face."

Wednesday Quick Hits:

  • Americans are stepping it up. A new government survey shows that more of us are walking regularly, with 62 percent of American adults saying they've walked at least once for 10 minutes or more in the past seven days. That's up from 56 percent in 2005.

  • Even the "oldest old" aging in place. More than half of 95-year-olds are living in their own homes, according to a recent report. Eight out of 10 Americans live in houses they own by the age of 65. That declines to 74 percent by age 80, to 70 percent at age 85 and to 54 percent at age 95.

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