Clouds hang over the heads of the 50-and-older population in the Sunshine State, according to a new AARP survey.
Pessimism has firmly overtaken optimism for older Florida residents when it comes to their future: 44 percent said they would delay retirement if the economy doesn’t improve.
Of that group, 28 percent said they expect never to retire, according to the random telephone survey done in January.
“That isn’t something we’ve necessarily seen before,” Jeff Johnson, interim Florida AARP director, said Tuesday. “That kind of jumps out at you.”
The question hasn’t been asked before and reflects the recession’s impacts. But Johnson speculates that even in 2008, respondents would not have answered that way.
The national AARP commissioned the survey with more than 29,000 adults who are 50 and older nationwide taking part. The Florida findings involved 402 respondents with a sampling error of 5 percent. Data about other state results was not readily available.
When asked about their finances, 62 percent of the Florida respondents said they were extremely worried about maintaining their finances in retirement. In addition, 64 percent said they were very worried about receiving public assistance benefits if they needed it.
Queried when they think the economy will improve, 41 percent said they believe it will take three years or longer, the answer option with the longest time horizon on the survey. Another 32 percent predicted improvement in two or three years and 12 percent estimated it would take one to two years. The remaining 16 percent were not sure.
“Most everyone else seems to think two years,” Johnson said.
When it comes to health-care matters, 54 percent said it is difficult to pay their out-of-pocket monthly medical bills. For 41 percent of the respondents, health care was their top concern while 31 percent said it was economic issues.
Florida is home to 4.4 million seniors, and half a million have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. By 2030, the state’s overall population is expected to reach 5.1 million residents, with more than 60 percent being seniors.
The AARP survey found that 64 percent of respondents want to receive long-term care at home with a nurse or family caring for them. Another 23 percent said they would prefer going to an assisted living facility. Seven percent said they preferred a nursing home and the remaining 6 percent were not sure or didn’t answer.
“This is timely for us given the Florida legislative session (started Tuesday),” Johnson said. “One of the things we are really watching is what they do with long-term care and Medicaid reform. They see it as an essential piece to tackle.”
Both the House and Senate have proposals to move the government health care for the disabled and poor into managed care systems, something that was launched in a few counties in 2005 as a pilot project. The objective now is going statewide.
Kristen Knapp, spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents the state’s 500 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, said the survey answers about long-term care were to be expected.
“We’ve always supported the full continuum of care,” she said. “The people who are in our facilities today are there because they have no alternative setting.”
What concerns the association with the Medicaid reform proposals are mandatory savings requirements that could only be achieved by provider rate cuts, on top of whatever Medicaid funding cuts which will be included, she said.