AARP Eye Center
What We’re Hearing from Older Americans during the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Nancy A. LeaMond, April 22, 2020 12:11 PM
As COVID-19 continues to take a toll on communities across the country, AARP is more committed than ever to hearing from and addressing the concerns of Americans age 50 and up. We are connecting with older adults through our call center, social media channels, and well-attended national and state tele-town halls to learn more about what’s on their minds and how we can help. Here’s a summary of what we’re hearing along with some insights from public opinion surveys.
- Older Americans are looking for information and resources they can trust. Since March 16, more than 250,000 people have participated in AARP coronavirus tele-town halls that our state teams have hosted across the country. A number of Members of Congress have served as guest speakers along with Governors, Lt. Governors, Attorneys General, and public health leaders. Information about upcoming tele-town halls as well as transcripts and audio recordings of past sessions are available here.
- Older Americans are focused on health and safety. When we surveyed Americans age 50+ during the third week of March, over 8 in 10 (83%) said they were concerned about the coronavirus spreading to them or their families (Benenson Strategy Group, March 22-24). That ongoing concern is reflected in the kinds of questions coming into AARP’s call center and on our tele-town halls. People want to know about everything from access to testing and mask safety to whether it’s safe to go to the grocery store, get a prescription filled, and have packages delivered. Public polling shows that Americans age 65 and up are the most concerned. Morning Consult’s April 10-12 and 17-19 coronavirus and political tracking surveys, three-quarters of 65+ adults called coronavirus a “severe” health risk in the U.S. compared to 67% across all age groups. And, folks age 55 and up are more likely than other age groups to say they are avoiding trips outside their homes and staying at least six feet away from people in public places.
- Older Americans are also concerned about financial hardship, the economy, and job loss. AARP is increasingly hearing from older Americans who have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay bills and manage with limited or reduced income. When we asked participants in an AARP recent tele-town hall event if the pandemic has affected their financial situation, 62 % of those who responded reported some kind of negative impact – either depleted savings, lost income, missed payments, worry about paying bills, or needing to work longer than they expected before retiring. Public opinion surveys are also showing that older adults feel less economically secure now than they did just a few months ago. April’s Harvard-Harris poll found that around 4 in 10 50+ Americans say their personal financial situation is getting worse – a 20 point increase compared to January 2020.
And, we know that, in general, older women are markedly more nervous about the economy than older men. When we surveyed older Americans in March, 57% of women age 50+ were pessimistic about where the economy would be in six months, while the same percentage of men age 50+ were upbeat on the state of the economy six months from now (Benenson Strategy Group, March 22-24). For more about older women and economic security in the age of coronavirus, check out my April 10 blog.
- Older Americans have questions about the stimulus checks and other government benefits. AARP’s social media channels have been dominated by conversations about stimulus check eligibility requirements, tax implications, how Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries are treated, and relief about the IRS reversing its decision to require additional paperwork from Social Security beneficiaries who don’t file taxes. AARP’s stimulus payment calculator was used more than 50,000 times in the first few days it was live, and more than hundreds of thousands have viewed articles on aarp.org about how Social Security recipients will receive checks, who is eligible, who doesn’t qualify, information about the IRS payment tracker and tools helping non-tax-filers.
- Older adults are concerned that this is a long-term crisis. In the March Harvard-Harris poll, a little more than 4 in 10 older adults see the crisis lasting more than 3 months, including 2 in 10 who think it could last at least a year. And a recent CNN survey shows that 80 percent of older Americans think the worst of the outbreak is yet to come.
AARP will continue to listen to the people we serve so we can deliver the information and resources that they need. We are all in this together, and AARP is here to help.