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Informing Policy on Retirement and Aging

NORC studies offer insights on aging

The number of Americans age 65 and over is growing at an unprecedented rate. In 2014, there were 46.2 million older adults. By the year 2060, that number is expected to grow to about 98 million. Through a variety of studies, NORC has been gathering, analyzing, and disseminating the data that will help inform how policymakers, care providers, employers, and individual families think about and prepare for aging and retirement.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, with funding from The SCAN Foundation, conducts a series of annual nationally representative surveys of Americans age 40 and over. The surveys examine older Americans’ understanding of the long-term care system, their perceptions and misperceptions regarding the likelihood of needing long-term care services and the cost of those services, and their attitudes and behaviors regarding planning for long-term care. Data from the 2017 Long-Term Care Poll showed that much of the public has inaccurate information about paying for in-home care. Many misperceive the costs of home health aides and may expect different types of care and services that home health aides are not always allowed to provide. Based on these results, The AP-NORC Center produced a video interactive titled Long-Term Care at Home: Understanding the Range of In-Home Services Available that was distributed broadly to AP’s many customers.

In addition, The AP-NORC Center is working with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to illuminate the impacts of an aging workforce. Launched in 2013, the Working Longer program combines a journalism fellowship that attracts talented economic journalists with original national survey projects. The surveys are designed to take the pulse of older Americans’ plans for and attitudes about work and retirement. Together, the research and journalism generated by the program provide a powerful vehicle for raising public awareness and increasing the quality of media coverage about the employment patterns of older adults, employer practices that affect older Americans’ ability to stay in the workforce, and the budgetary and policy consequences of an older workforce.

Seventy Percent
All of the NSHAP cohorts have response rates over 70%.

Studies conducted by NORC have shone an increasingly revelatory light on the important and complex role social interactions play in how well we age. The National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), conducted in collaboration with a team of University of Chicago faculty investigators with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a representative, longitudinal survey (3 waves over 15 years) of older adults, including people born between 1920 and 1965 and their partners. Data from NSHAP show that age alone does not account for differences in older people’s health. A “comprehensive model” of aging that takes into account factors such as psychological well-being, sensory function, mobility, and health behaviors is a much better predictor of mortality. NORC also used NSHAP data to provide a report to the AARP Foundation about the prevalence and correlates of loneliness in older Americans. In another study supported by NIH, Chicago Health and Activity in Real-Time, NORC is using innovative data collection methods to explore where and how older adults spend their time, including how social support networks affect and are affected by the mental and physical health of older Chicagoans.