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Public Doesn’t Realize How Vulnerable Seniors are to Chronic Diseases

Published March 30, 2006


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Roper Survey: Public Doesn’t Realize How Vulnerable Older Americans Are to Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Neurological Disorders

Alliance for Aging Research almanac underscores human and economic impact of chronic diseases on our aging nation

March 30th, 2006, Washington, D.C. – The Alliance for Aging Research reports that by age 65, nearly nine out of ten Americans will have at least one chronic condition; but a survey conducted this month by Roper/GfK finds that most people sorely underestimate that figure.

Furthermore, the Roper/GfK survey demonstrates a lack of knowledge among Americans when it comes to their chances of getting cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, as they age.

Survey findings include:

  • When asked about their chances of having a chronic disease by age 65, just 4% of Americans select the correct range (81% – 90%) from a set of possible answers read during the survey.
  • Just 10% of the American public correctly estimates their chances of getting cardiovascular disease (61%-70%) by retirement age and most vastly underestimate their chances (39% are 20 points off or more).

“It is obvious from this survey that Americans are uninformed when it comes to their susceptibility to chronic diseases as they age,” explained Daniel Perry, Executive Director, Alliance for Aging Research. “Our society is both aging and living longer. Unfortunately, life after age 65 for most people means an increasing risk of developing age-related chronic diseases.”

By 2030, the number of Americans age 65 and older will double as the baby boomer generation ages. As a result, Americans face an increased risk of developing chronic conditions that often require ongoing, expensive medical care and result in a loss of independence and productivity for themselves and their family caregivers. At the same time, the emergence of new technologies has the potential to redefine old age for millions of people.

To better understand the human and economic burden of chronic disease, the Alliance for Aging Research introduces The Silver Book: Chronic Disease and Medical Innovation in an Aging Nation. The Silver Book is an almanac that draws upon scores of authoritative studies and analyses by the government, industry, private organizations and prominent economists.

“We hope The Silver Book serves as a ready and trusted resource for thought-leaders, policymakers and others who influence health care,” said Mr. Perry.

The Alliance for Aging Research will keep the almanac current in hopes that it will continue to inform decision-making and policy innovations important to our aging society. The Silver Book is available for purchase and free download at

This survey was conducted by the Roper Public Affairs group among a national random digit dialing (RDD) probability sample of 1,000 Americans age 18 and above. The survey was conducted March 17-19 2006 and the margin of error is + 3.7 percentage points.

Founded in 1986, the Alliance for Aging Research is a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the health and independence of aging Americans through public and private funding of medical research and geriatric education. The Alliance combines the interest of top scientists, public officials, business executives, and foundation leaders to promote a greater national investment in research and new technologies that will prepare our nation for the coming senior boom, and improve the quality of life for today’s older generation.

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