Posted January 1st, 2015

What You Don’t Know About Aging May Surprise You

Study highlights the difference between perception and reality.

A study published in December in The Wall Street Journal upends many common misconceptions about aging.

The report compiled studies and surveys conducted over the past decade to align perceptions about aging by younger persons with the reality reported by those 65 and older.

The 2014 study focused on six myths of aging: depression, loss of cognitive skills, diminished productivity at work, loneliness, a decline in creativity and the loss of physical wellbeing.

Rather than being inevitable conditions, the study found that many seniors report a vastly different experience—or may avoid these pitfalls of aging with a concentrated strategy of mental and physical exercise. In fact, roughly 60 percent of seniors feel younger than their chronological age, and in five categories measuring satisfaction with life (including purpose, social, financial, community and physical), seniors reported a better quality of life than any other age group.

Most telling were the results of a Pew Research Center survey in which younger respondents were asked to imagine life after 65. Their answers were compared with actual experiences reported by those already in that age range, with surprising results (see below).

What fundraisers should know.

The takeaway for development officers who work with older donors? Your donors likely feel younger and more upbeat than you may have thought.

agingHowever, an optimistic attitude does not mean that donors should be treated the same way as their younger colleagues. Diminished visual acuity is almost universal among older persons, so care should be taken to ensure printed communications are easily legible, with large font sizes and plenty of white space. Many older persons may also have hearing or mobility issues that need to be accounted for.

Despite these issues, fundraisers should be careful they do not underestimate their donors’ mental and physical abilities based on common and biased misconceptions. Treat each donor on a case-by-case basis, assuming at the outset that life after 65 may actually be better than you ever imagined.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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