West is the Best for Growing Old

The elixir for feeling youthful? Living out West, apparently.

More older Americans who live in the western United States — including Utah — report they feel younger than their actual age. They also are less apt to think of themselves as “old” and feel healthier than counterparts elsewhere in the country, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Half of older Westerners feel 10 or more years younger than their actual age; of those, 20 percent feel 20 or more years younger. Part of the reason for that may be that older adults in the West report being more active.

Marvel S. Johnson places herself in the elite group who feel decades younger.

“I feel 50,” said Johnson, 71, of Holladay. “I feel healthy. I like doing a lot.”

A serious accident — she was hit by a bus during a trip to Italy — has slowed her only a bit, she said. Johnson gardens, reads, listens to music, continues to travel and keeps physically active thanks to her grandchildren and dog.

On Thursday she was busy filling out an application for “Lunch and Learn” sessions at the Osher Institute at the University of Utah, where she plans to delve into topics ranging from the “urban interface trail system” to “Concubines, Queen Mothers and the Ottoman Empire.”

“It opens up venues of information that I personally never had an opportunity to do,” said Johnson, who worked as a registered nurse, overseeing emergency room departments.

The center concludes that those living in the West are, on average, more likely to say they are very happy, have a good social network, report better health and feel confident they have adequate resources to see them through their golden years.

But good friends, health and financial resources, rather than location, may have the most to do with the happiness factor, the center said. And more people with those assets may happen to be congregated out West.

“If you want to be among a lot of older folks who feel young and happy, the West looks like your best bet,” the report concludes.

Johnson agrees that having a “good” retirement fund tucked away is an “enormous factor.”

“It creates freedom many people otherwise do not have,” she said.

The survey did contain a few surprises.

Feeling younger may be a state of mind that does not alleviate being stereotyped as old. The survey found fewer adults age 65 and older in the West felt they received more respect as they aged, compared to those in other parts of the country.

Older Americans in the West also are more likely to have lived elsewhere, which may be why they report less daily contact with children. Those relationships were no less satisfactory, however.

Another difference: Twice as many older Westerners live in a senior-only community.

The center conducted a telephone survey of 2,969 of adults ages 65 and older between Feb. 23 and March 23. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Happy people– Older adults in the West feel younger, healthier

— 78 percent of adults age 65 and older living in West say they don’t feel old, compared with 67 percent in other regions

— 72 percent of adults ages 65 and older living in the West say they have excellent or good health, compared to 63 percent elsewhere

— 66 percent of older Westerners say they feel younger than their chronological age, compared to 57 percent elsewhere

— 23 percent of older Westerners have lived in their local community their entire life, compared to 38 percent of adults in other regions

— 41 percent of older Westerners have daily contact with a son or daughter, compared to 57 percent of adults elsewhere

— 16 percent of older Westerners live in age-restricted communities, compared to 8 percent of older adults in other regions

By: Brooke Adams | Source: McClatchy-Tribune Regional News | August 10, 2009

Aug. 10, 2009 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) — Source: The Pew Research Center