Older adults have been the focus of attention since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic - as a particularly vulnerable risk group, the highest priority group for vaccinations, and in discussions about the consequences of social isolation. By analizing data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), it has now been possible for the first time to examine the living situation of adults during the first lockdown in Germany, differentiated by age group, with a particular focus on the satisfaction and future expectations of those over 65. It turns out that older adults share the same concerns, especially about the fact that the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. In contrast, they are much less likely than younger adults to expect serious financial problems for themselves or their loved ones.
The analysis was based on the responses of 2,273 adults between the ages of 33 and 76 who are regularly surveyed as part of the NEPS and participated in a COVID-19 related supplementary survey in May 2020. The analysis compared the life situation of respondents over the age of 65 with that of younger respondents - firstly in terms of current life satisfaction, and secondly in terms of their expectations for the future.
Older adults not more burdened
As expected, the Corona pandemic combined with the first lockdown reduced people's life satisfaction - by one point on a scale of 0 (completely dissatisfied) to 10 (completely satisfied). This finding is equally evident across all age groups. Thus, respondents over 65 were no more affected by the lockdown, with all its social consequences, than younger adults. However, the survey does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the individual reasons for the decline in satisfaction in the various age groups.
"The fact that the decline in satisfaction was about the same for all age groups surprised us," said Dr. Philipp Handschuh, lead author of the analysis. "We had suspected that the satisfaction of the elderly would suffer particularly as a result of reductions in social contacts. However, it has to be said that in our online survey we primarily reached older people with access to digital technologies, through which the lack of personal social contacts could be partially compensated."
Older and younger adults share the same concerns
When asked about their concerns, it became apparent that all of the age groups feared an overburdening of the healthcare system or a prolonged severe economic crisis to a similar extent. The most pronounced concern was that the financial gap between rich and poor would continue to grow as a result of the pandemic.
With regard to their expectations for the future, there were again differences between the age groups. In comparison to younger respondents, adults over the age of 65 considered their own financial problems, a reduction in their standard of living or possible financial hardship for their relatives to be significantly less likely. Older respondents also considered it less likely that their relatives would fall ill with COVID-19. Only when it comes to their own health all age groups anticipate restrictions to the same extent.