Older Caregivers

It is a well-known fact that many women fulfill a caregiving role for people in their lives, from children to spouses to older parents. What is less obvious is that a large proportion of older adults, many of whom have health problems of their own, fulfill these caregiving responsibilities. The Urban Institute  recently published a report on the caregiving activities of older Americans.

  • Nearly 40% of Americans over age 55 provide care to family members, and nearly half of Americans aged 55 to 65 fulfill caregiving roles. Older caregivers provide an average of 580 hours of care per year to family members.
  • Men and women are equally likely to fulfill caregiving roles, but female caregivers spend many more hours providing care. Women spend an average of 680 hours per year providing care, 160 more hours on average than male caregivers.
  • Nearly one-fourth of older adults provide care for their grandchildren, and 2.4 million grandparents live with and provide care for grandchildren—a 73% increase since 1970. Almost one third of these grandparents are African American, and almost one fifth live in poverty.
  • Adult children account for 80% of caregivers for non-married older adults. Of these adult children, over half are older than 50 years old. 
  • Spouses account for 90% of primary caregivers for married adults with a disability.
  • Older adults particularly bear the burden on caring for spouses: nearly 10% of adults age 75 and older provided care for a spouse, compared to just over 5% of adults aged 55-64.
  • Participating in the labor force does not exempt older adults from working: 50.3% of full-time and 54% of part time workers over age 55 provide care to a family member.
  • Caring for a spouse requires more than double the amount of time than caring for grandchildren or aging parents: older adults who care for a spouse spend an average of 1,400 hours per year providing care. Adults age 75 or over, who are more likely to care for spouses, spend an average of 886 hours per year on caregiving activities.

    "Older Adults and Caregiving," Richard W. Johnson and Simone G. Schaner. The Retirement Project: Perspectives on Productive Aging. July 2005.

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