The economy may have forced people to think more about their retirement but there is still one aspect of aging that most Americans are not considering—long term care—says a recent national survey.

The national poll, conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), found that more than three quarters of Americans (76 percent) said they had thought “a lot” or “some” about how they want to spend their Golden years. But only four in 10 (44 percent) thought they would need long term care. The federal government estimates that seven in 10 elderly Americans will need long term care at some point in their lives.

“We understand aging is not a topic many Americans want to think or talk about, but the reality is that many of us will need some aspect of long term care in the future,” said NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle. “It’s important that Americans plan for their health care needs and communicate with loved ones about what they desire when that day comes.”

What, Me Worry?

We are, by nature, vain creatures of short-term thinking​—we tend to think that we are invincible and that there is no need to worry about the future when there is so much in the now to consider (job, finances, family). Yet, as Benjamin Franklin once quipped, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Further poll responses include:

  • ​Six in 10 respondents said they did not currently have a power of attorney or an advance directive (also known as living will) in place.
  • One-third of Americans believe Medicare will cover most of their healthcare expenses in retirement, despite the fact that the program does not cover long term care services and supports.

Home is [Not Necessarily] Where The Heart Is

When pushed to discuss what options Americans would consider should their health start to fail, respondents were mostly split between hiring an in-home caregiver (25 percent), moving in with a family member (28 percent), or moving into an assisted living community (28 percent), a specific kind of long term facility.

Three quarters of the polled Americans have a favorable opinion of assisted living. When schooled on some of the services, specialties, and initiatives assisted living communities undertake, respondents’ favorability further increased.

“Many would assume that all Americans want to stay in their home for the rest of their lives, but this research shows that some in fact want the option of residing in an assisted living community,” said Tittle. “These facilities offer a complete package of person-centered health care services with recreational and social activities in a home-like setting. They provide consumers with a high-quality, low-cost long term care option.”

Confirms Jeanne Jaeckels, director of Housing Development at Tealwood Senior Living and NCAL Customer Relations Committee Chair: “There is definitely a growing interest in assisted living services—we hear it first-hand every day. And we know this opportunity will only continue to grow. It’s encouraging that as members of the public become more aware of what we do and how we support the larger community, they are receptive towards assisted living.”

Morning Consult conducted the poll online and surveyed 2,018 registered voters from November 20-23, 2015.

Jackie Oberst is Provider’s managing editor. Email her at or follow the magazine on Twitter @ProviderMag.