Go West, Old Man: Where Older Adults Feel Young at Heart

Aug 07, 2009

If a latter-day Ponce de Leon were to search for a modern fountain of youth, he'd do well to explore America's West. There he'd find the highest concentration of older adults in the United States who don't think of themselves as old. Fully 78% of adults ages 65 and older who live in the West say they don't feel old, compared with 67% of older adults who live in the rest of the country, according to a Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,969 adults.

Asked how old they feel, two-thirds of Westerners ages 65 and older say they feel younger than their chronological years, compared with 57% of older Americans in other regions. Among older Westerners, half say they feel 10 or more years younger than their actual age and one-in-five say they feel 20 or more years younger.

Older folks living in the West also feel healthier than older folks elsewhere. Among adults ages 65 and older, some 72% of those living in the West say they are in excellent or good health. This compares with 63% of those living in other regions of the country. Differences in self-reported health by region are not seen among other age groups in the population.

Older Westerners also get more exercise. Some 77% of Westerners ages 65 and older report they get some kind of physical exercise on a typical day, compared with 69% of those in the rest of the country. But when this question is refined just to include "vigorous" exercise, there is no statistically significant difference by region in the amount of daily exercise that older adults get.

How else do older Westerners compare with older adults in the rest of the country? The Pew Research survey finds broad similarities by region on many attitudes and experiences related to the aging process, but some notable differences when it comes to residential mobility, family relationships and living arrangements.

Read the full report Go West, Old Man: Where Older Adults Feel Young at Heart on the Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends Web site.

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