Listen to your elders!  We always heard that growing up, and as we age, we begin to really appreciate the essential wisdom of the directive. For the last eight years, the Atlanta Regional Commission has asked about the attitudes and perceptions of all adults as part of our Metro Atlanta Speaks (MAS) survey. As the finale of our Older Americans’ Month series of posts on Atlanta aging, we offer an overview of some key findings for senior populations from the 2020 survey.

The biggest interest in our surveys has always been about the question: “what’s the biggest problem”?  Below, from 2016-2019 you can see that seniors have always rated crime as their #1 concern, followed by transportation. In 2020, Crime stayed #1 on the minds of seniors, but just barely. It was followed closely by “public health”, which had come in near the bottom of the rankings from 2016-2019.

And why did public health soar in the ranked biggest problem, from 2019-2020. That’s easy: COVID-19. The pandemic changed the worlds of all age groups, some more in some areas than in others. The relatively dominant concern for seniors was health, as opposed to finance in the case of younger cohorts. The first chart below indicates that 30% of those aged 65+ saw Health as a greater concern than Finance. This stands to reason given the greater risk for hospitalization or death from COVID-19 for the older population, as well as the relative stability of their incomes and the relatively low chance that they would have been in the workforce and (as such) lost a job during the economic plunge of March and April of 2020. As a further example, the second chart indicates that seniors were quite bit less concerned about making mortgage/ rent payments than were other age groups. Weekly national survey results (e.g. from the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey) are consistent with MAS: they show that seniors countrywide have been relatively less impacted by housing cost stress (as well as by food insecurity) throughout the pandemic

Responses to other questions do indicate that seniors appeared to “act” consistently on their greater concern with health. The third chart, reporting data from August 2020, shows that older persons were the most likely cohort to always or almost always “mask up”. Finally, the fourth image shows that seniors were much more given (than other age groups) to delay medical care because of the pandemic.

One of the other new efforts for the 2020 survey,  which was brought forward by the killing of George Floyd and the resultant protests and unrest, was making an assessment of perceived inequity in our Region. Fewer seniors, the least diverse age group in terms of race and ethnicity,  saw problems with race relations than did other age groups– 90% of those aged 18-34 saw discrimination against Blacks as a serious problem, compared to a lower 66% of seniors. Responding to a related question fewer seniors (3 in 10 as compared to 6 in 10 of those aged 18-34) wanted non-police entities to respond to certain police calls as the situation warranted.  Finally, the final chart of the ‘block’ below compares the biggest problem answer by age group (2020 only) and we see –corresponding with the answers to the discrimination and police response questions– that race relations and the economy are far more significant to the young than to the old(er).

One of the most useful data resources for exploring MAS data is our Tableau data dashboard. This tool provides easy access to time series responses for each question, when available, cross-tabbed by demographic characteristics of the respondents (including all the age groups we have touched on in this post). Click the image below to check it out!

We also provide a slideshare link (again below) to a “specialty” presentation that we gave this past winter on senior-cohort attitudes and perceptions. It covers, in more detail, data like those you saw above, plus much more.

For slide decks with ALL MAS results, visit the ARC Metro Atlanta Speaks page. Also,  come back to this blog in the coming weeks for a closer look at “perceptions of owner households in the region” from the 2020 survey, and get ready for a new set of results (from the 2021 edition of MAS) come this Fall.