Aging and in debt: More than half of older Americans owe money

Housing Debt Putting Greatest Pressure on Seniors


Are you working to pay down tens of thousands of dollars in debt? You may be surprised to learn that your aging parents, and even your grandparents, are likely in the same boat. When it comes to the specter of personal debt, national conversations tend to revolve around younger Americans struggling with student loans or mounting credit card burdens. But a new survey commissioned by suggests that there may be a blind spot in our awareness of debt amongst America’s seniors.

Homeowner costs such as mortgages and home equity loans are the largest source of debt for older Americans (52 percent of respondents), followed by car loans (17 percent) and medical bills (12 percent). And 40 percent of older Americans owe $50,000 or more in debt.

“For most Americans, the golden years are not debt-free,” says Tim Sullivan, Vice President of “This can make it tough to put aside the funds you need not only in retirement, but for the day when you or your spouse need some type of senior care.”

Medical bills are the main source of debt for older Americans with annual household incomes under $25,000, and the second largest source of debt for those with an annual household income under $50,000. These respondents said they were more likely to consider borrowing money from friends and family or to file for bankruptcy.

Although adults over 65 often face significant debt, they are less likely to consider debt reduction strategies such as drawing from a retirement fund or life insurance policy, borrowing from friends and family, re-negotiating debt with creditors or selling off assets.

“We encourage seniors to realistically consider their future care needs when deciding how to tackle their debt,” Sullivan says.

A year in an assisted living community costs about $45,000 on average, and a year of full-time in-home care is roughly $48,000, according to Genworth. Most of these costs fall to seniors and their families, as Medicare only covers these services in rare circumstances.

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted by SSRS. SSRS obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 504 adults aged 55 and over living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline and cell phone in English and Spanish by SSRS from January 14-19, 2018. Statistical results are weighted to represent the target population. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

About is a trusted Internet resource for families or individuals looking for senior housing or care., a sister site of, features thousands of expert-written articles, a free care advisor service and a comprehensive directory of care options, including reviews and ratings of senior living communities. Launched in 2008, the company educates over 3 million people annually on senior living and senior care options.