Future residents may be sicker than current ones, study suggests

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Future residents may be moving in sicker than current ones, suggests a new study.

Members of the pre-retirement generation already have more health issues and health-related limits on their lives than previous generations did when they were in their late 50s, according to research published in Health Affairs.

“We found that younger cohorts are facing more burdensome health issues, even as they have to wait until an older age to retire, so they will have to do so in poorer health,” said Robert Schoeni, Ph.D., an economist and demographer at the University of Michigan and co-author of the paper.

Those born in 1960 or later cannot claim full Social Security benefits until they are 67, noted the researchers. And those who rely on Social Security for most or all of their retirement income tend to have jobs with more physical demands, making it more difficult to work to an older age, they said.

Using data from long-term health studies and funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the researchers found that those who are in the age group that has to wait until age 67 to receive full Social Security benefits tended to have higher rates of poor cognition, such as memory and thinking ability, in their 50s than the cohort groups of older people had at a similar age.

This group also had higher percentages of people who had at least one limitation on their ability to perform an activity of daily living by themselves.

Additionally, when they rated their own health, more of them said it was fair or poor, compared with lower percentages of older people when they were around age 50.

The findings have implications for policymakers thinking again about increasing the age at which people can collect full Social Security, the researchers said. And those implications could affect senior living communities and the services they will need to offer.

“As policymakers talk of making the retirement age even later, these findings suggest that to fully understand the benefits and costs of such a policy, we must realize that raising the retirement age may further exacerbate the inequality between cohorts born only a few years apart, because the younger ones may find it more challenging to work beyond age 67.” Schoeni said.

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