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Many Older Americans Engage in Caregiving Activities

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Document date: July 28, 2005
Released online: July 28, 2005

Brief #3 from the series Perspectives on Productive Aging

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).


Many older Americans provide care to young children and frail adults. Although few caregivers are paid for their work, the services they provide to family members and friends are crucial. Without their help, the government would have to offer additional child care or long-term care services at taxpayer expense, those in need of care would have to purchase more paid services, or some children and people with disabilities would have to get by with less care.

This brief examines caregiving activities by adults age 55 and older. Findings are based on the 2002 Health and Retirement Study, a large, nationally representative survey of older noninstitutionalized Americans.1 The results show that nearly 40 percent of people age 55 and older—and about half of those age 55 to 64—spent time caring for family members in 2002. On average, caregivers spent 580 hours per year helping their grandchildren, parents, inlaws, and frail spouses. Men were just as likely as women to help their families, but women devoted more time to caregiving activities.

Notes from this section

The authors thank Sheila R. Zedlewski and Barbara A. Butrica for their expertise and comments.

1. The survey is conducted by the University of Michigan with primary funding from the National Institute on Aging. See http://hrsonline.isr.umich.edu.


Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).



Topics/Tags: | Health/Healthcare | Retirement and Older Americans


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