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Senior Sentiment Report May 2021

Explore Seniorly's Senior Sentiment Report for May 2021. We're proud to present a monthly snapshot of how seniors in the US are feeling about their well-being and quality of life.

By Seniorly Editor · Updated Feb 10, 2022
senior-woman-and-younger-woman
  • Vaccination Continues to Broaden Behavior
  • Seniors Feel More Angry and Worried
  • Families a Source of Stress

Seniorly is proud to introduce our May Senior Sentiment Report. This survey is a monthly snapshot of how seniors in the U.S. are feeling about their well-being and quality of life. The findings of each survey are summarized in a monthly Seniorly Sentiment Score, a combined overall score between 0 and 100, reflecting older adults' answers to questions about connectedness, affordability, and mental health.

The May 2021 Senior Sentiment Score is a combined overall score, reflecting this month’s Senior Connectedness Index, Senior Affordability Index, and Mental Health Index:

65

The Sentiment Score is a real-time qualitative measure of well-being and quality of life among our seniors, designed to track their responses to events and factors with wide-reaching national impact on a monthly basis.

The current Senior Sentiment score is 51 (a decrease from 53 in April). 

The senior Connectedness Index decreased from 42 to 40 in May. Fewer seniors reported feeling that they have the perfect amount of support in their lives in May. 7% said that zero family or friends had supported them mentally, physically and/or socially at least one day in the past month, up from 5.6% in April.

Although many seniors reported being vaccinated and returning to more and more activities, seniors also saw a slight uptick in feeling anger and worry. Although COVID restrictions and pandemic fears are easing somewhat, seniors were still stressed in May, and the Mental Health Index dropped from 69 to 66.

Finally, a change in one of our survey questions led to some surprising results: the number of seniors reporting “family” as a source of stress more than doubled. Although this number was influenced by the way we asked the question, we are very eager to see how it changes or remains steady in future survey results.

This survey was conducted May 24th to May 28th.

The following chart breaks down the April to May change for the Connectedness, Affordability, and Mental Health Indices.

79
ItemMay 2021 ScoreExplanation
Connectedness Index40Seniors have mild levels of support and social structure that is promoting feelings of wellbeing
Affordability Index46Seniors have significant gaps in their finances causing stress  and worries.
Mental Health Index66Seniors are comfortable with their personal situation and that of the larger world.
Seniorly Sentiment Score50.87 

Score Explanation and methodology can be found lower in this article

Top 3 May 2021 Index Highlights

Vaccination Continues to Broaden Behavior

89% of our respondents reported that they have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. 29% reported that they have changed their behavior since being vaccinated: up significantly from 19% in April. Popular post-vaccine activities included dining indoors at restaurants, indoor activities like exercise classes and clubs, flying, and staying in hotels. This aligns with seniors reporting feeling less restless (down to 12% in May from 14% in April), and perhaps, with feeling slightly happier (up to 9.4% from 8.1% in April).

Seniors Feel More Angry and Worried

Seniors reported feeling angry and worried in higher numbers in May, as well as slightly less content. Although reports of loneliness, restlessness, and sadness were down and happiness slightly up, the biggest jump for any of the emotions we asked about was a 3.61% increase in worry. 

EmotionApril '21May '21
Angry1.87%2.48%⬆
Contented37.76%36.14%⬇
Excited2.55%2.31% ⬆
Happy8.16%9.41%⬆
Lonely9.1%8.58%⬇
Restless14.46%12.21%⬇
Sad8.16%6.77%⬇
Worried17.35%20.96%⬆

Perhaps related to these fluctuations in feelings, many seniors also reported feeling less supported. Only 56% of respondents said that they were receiving the “perfect amount of support” from family and friends, down from 61% in April. 

Families are a Source of Stress

In May’s survey we changed how we asked about the stress seniors experienced. While the question remained the same (“What has been the biggest stressor in the past month?”) we altered the responses seniors could choose from: 

April Stressor OptionsMay Stressor Options
The economyMy finances
Mental healthMy health
Physical healthPandemic-related issues
Other (please specify)US or World events
 Family
Other (please specify)

We chose this approach based on the write-in answers we’ve been seeing since the beginning of the year: this change will provide deeper insights over time. From this month's data we were surprised to see one initial result, however.

26% of seniors reported that “Family” was one of their biggest stressors in the past month. Based on the write-in answers in April, this number more than doubled: roughly 12% of respondents cited family as a source of stress in April. It’s possible that the way we presented the question influenced the response, but we are excited to see whether this number changes or remains steady in the coming months.

Not only did the number of seniors reporting “family” as a source of stress double, but this was also the leading source of stress, ahead of finances, health, and all other options provided. Additionally, when respondents wrote specific answers they reported that being caregivers for parents, spouses, and other family members was a major cause of stress. 

“My Mom's declining health (dementia) and the inability to get her into a program or facility that is designed for her special needs.”

“Dealing with 80+ PARENTS failing health & mobility and refusal to go into care home”

“My brother a bachelor has Parkinson’s Disease and the government offices, providers and even Medicare by their own laws are not helping him be placed in assisted living in a decent respectable community, because he is home bound! [sic]”

Conclusion 

Although U.S. seniors continue to enjoy more freedom post-vaccination, May brought stressful caregiving pressures as well as an increase in some negative feelings and a slight decrease in contentedness. If family stressors — managing a spouse’s health, getting a parent the care they need — did indeed see such a steep increase in May (and not just because we changed the way we gather data), it's clear that this was accompanied by a perceived lack of support from family and friends. If you know someone who is taking care of a loved one, consider reaching out to them. Caregiving can be rewarding but also deeply challenging, and can lead to caregiver burnout. Even a simple call or text to say “Thinking of you” might help someone struggling with caring for a loved one right now. 

Data Background:

ItemWhat
Connectedness IndexHow connected are Seniors feeling?
Affordability IndexHow comfortable do Seniors feel about their financial situation and affording the costs of aging?
Mental Health IndexHow mentally healthy are seniors feeling?

Index Explanation

Score RangeConnectedAffordabilityMental Health
0-25Extremely lonely, crisis levelSeniors are extremely worried about paying for and supporting themselves as they ageSeniors are anxious and worried
26-50Weak supportSeniors have gaps in their finances Seniors are concerned with events unfolding around them
51-75Medium levels of supportSeniors financial health is not of immediate concern but is still on their mindSeniors are comfortable with their situation
76-100Very well supported, with strong connections and large numbers of connectionSeniors are financially stable and able to afford their coming years with no concernsSeniors are content and calm

Moving forward, we've decided to survey seniors several times per year, rather than every month. Be sure to check back for our fall Senior Sentiment Report. If you’re interested in a more in-depth explanation of how we survey and collect data, please contact research@seniorly.com

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