InAweofGod'sCreation via Flickr Credit: InAweofGod'sCreation via Flickr

Maine and the U.S. aren’t quite as old as some of the oldest countries in the world, but they’re close. And the number of seniors in America is expected to almost double by 2050. What are people’s attitudes toward aging? Whose responsibility is it to take care of older adults? Are older people happy?

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center wanted to find out and conducted parallel surveys in the United States, Germany and Italy.

Germany and Italy are the oldest countries in the world after Japan, and they are already where the U.S. is projected to be age-wise in 2050. A total of 1,692 adults in the United States, 1,700 in Germany and 1,516 in Italy were surveyed, between Oct. 17 and Dec. 18, 2014.

Below are some of the findings.

The grayest of the gray

Maine is very close to having the same percentage of seniors that the grayest countries in the world have. Currently about 18 percent of Maine’s population is over age 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, 21 percent of the populations in Germany and Italy is over 65. (In the U.S., it’s 14 percent.)

Will there be enough money to support each country’s social security systems? Only 20 percent of Americans told Pew they expect Social Security to be flush enough when they retire to provide them with benefits at current levels. But Germans and Italians are even more doubtful. Just 11 percent of Germans and 7 percent of Italians think they’ll receive benefits from their equivalents to the U.S. Social Security system.

Responsibility of government

government responsibility

Just 24 percent of Americans say the government should have the greatest responsibility in providing financial support to aging adults. Twice as many Germans and even more Italians think so. Americans are more likely to say families should bear most of the responsibility for the financial well-being of their older family members — 30 percent — compared with 20 percent for Italians and 9 percent for Germans.

Responsibility of family

As Americans and Germans grow older, they don’t feel the same sense of responsibility for providing financial support for their aging parents — especially not as much as Italians. A whopping 86 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 say adult children have a responsibility to provide for their aging parents, but just 64 percent of those 65 and older say the same. Meanwhile, 87 percent of Italians over age 65 say it’s the responsibility of an adult child to provide financial assistance to an aging parent who needs it.

financial assistance


It’s not just a good thing to do but a responsibility of a parent to leave an inheritance for their children, said a majority of Americans ages 18 to 29. A total of 51 percent in that age group say leaving an inheritance is a parent’s responsibility, compared with only 27 percent of Italians and 20 percent of Germans.



Older adults are pretty happy. “For example, in each of the three countries, more than six-in-ten adults ages 65 and older say they are spending more time with their family and on hobbies and other interests as they get older, and about half or more also say they are experiencing less stress,” wrote Pew. However, while 81 percent of Americans and 84 percent of Germans ages 65 and older say they are at least “pretty happy,” only 58 percent of Italians can say the same.


Read the full report by clicking here.

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Erin Rhoda

Erin Rhoda is the editor of Maine Focus, a team that conducts journalism investigations and projects at the Bangor Daily News. She also writes for the newspaper, often centering her work on domestic and...