In late 2021, journalists at National Geographic magazine and AARP discussed working together to explore how Americans perceive aging as we emerge from the COVID pandemic. That began a research collaboration focused on asking people like you questions that would probe the full breadth of aging issues — from health and finances to attitudes about happiness, home, optimism and even dying.
To make the study as useful as possible, we posed the same questions to Americans from age 18 into their 90s, to see how opinions vary over the arc of adulthood. More than 2,500 people participated, representing the full range of America’s backgrounds, demographics and ethnicities. Another 25 adults 40 and older participated in in-depth interviews.
Many of the often surprising results of the AARP–National Geographic “Second Half of Life Study” are in your hands. No single sentence can capture the gist of all that people told us, but we can say with confidence that most prevalent opinions and stereotypes of aging were proven wrong.
Overall, the message was refreshingly positive and reassuring. On the whole, life is good, especially for older Americans — especially those over 60. And the person you see in the mirror is far different from the type of person younger generations might think you are.