AARP Ore. survey looks at seniors' concerns

Long-term care only topped by economy, jobs

Oregonians over age 50 are concerned enough about aging gracefully that "long-term care services and supports" rank second on their list of top priorities -- right behind "the economy and jobs."

That comes from a new statewide survey by AARP Oregon. Ninety percent of those surveyed said it is important to have choices for how and where they receive care, and 58 percent said they would prefer to get them in their own home or an assisted living arrangement.

However, AARP Oregon State Director Jerry Cohen said, when state budget cuts continue to chip away at social services, it becomes harder to stay independent and age with dignity.

"That's what we're fighting for, and that's what our survey validates," he said. "It's common sense, but it's nice to know that the majority of Oregonians - certainly the AARP members responding here - also share and validate that vision."

Gov. John Kitzhaber's budget does not trim services for seniors and people with disabilities, but the budget proposed by the Ways and Means Committee co-chairs in Salem includes some cuts.

AARP Oregon said it will share the survey results with lawmakers and stress the need to plan for a future in which about 70 percent of those who are now 65 or older will need some type of long-term care.

In the survey, 59 percent of respondents said they would rather have in-home care professionals than rely on family or friends. Cohen noted that is partly because relatives are not always nearby or the seniors do not want to feel like a burden.

More than one-third of AARP members said they are already caring for aging loved ones. Cohen said support services for those families also are disappearing.

"In Oregon, we had a wonderful, vibrant respite system of care for caregivers, but we've pretty much chopped out and eliminated so much of that support. That adds again to the concern and stress," he said.

The greatest need for services is in the fastest-growing segment of the senior population, he said: those over age 85. That group will grow by 50 percent in Oregon in the next decade, and AARP advised that allowing them to be cared for at home is the state's least expensive option.

The full survey results are available at http://states.aarp.org.

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this story.

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