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sightlinesThe developed world is bearing witness to a 21st century miracle – the possibility of living well to the age of 100 and beyond. Three out of four Americans indicate that they want to live to 100 if they can do so in good health. Compelling scientific evidence indicates that living long and living well is most realistic for those who are socially engaged, adopt healthy living behaviors and are able to build financial security.

THE SIGHTLINES PROJECT investigates how well Americans are doing in each of these three areas that are critical to wellbeing as people age: financial security, healthy living and social engagement. The findings are based on analyses of eight nationally representative, high quality, multi-year studies involving more than 1.2 million Americans over two decades. We look at how many Americans in each of six age groups are doing well in each area, rather than how well the “average” American is doing. These results are intended to stir national debate, guide policy development, stimulate entrepreneurial
innovation, and encourage personal choices that enhance independent, 100-year lives.




Healthy Living Gains Offset by Rising Risks Financial Security Trends Alarming Traditional Social Engagement Waning
* Date range is 1997-2007 * Date range is 2000-2001

Included in the Index

Healthy Daily Activities

• Regular exercise

• Limited sedentary behavior

• Eat 5 fruits and vegetables

• Healthy BMI

• Sufficient sleepAvoiding Risky Behaviors

• Illicit drug use (for those under 65)

• Tobacco and nicotine use

• Excessive alcohol consumption

Healthy Living, defined as avoiding risky behaviors (smoking, excessive drinking, drug use, etc.) and making healthy choices day to day (eating well, exercising, etc.), is known to be beneficial. Americans have made substantial progress in several areas, while others challenges remain or have actually increased.Most surprising:

  • Smoking – the top preventable cause of morbidity and early mortality – is declining in every age group.


  • For the first time in decades, more Americans are exercising regularly. More than half of Millennials (ages 25-34) are getting the recommended amount of exercise.


  • Sitting, which has emerged as an independent risk factor for health, is steeply increasing.


  • Problems with diet and sleep are widespread and show no signs of abating.

Included in the Index

Cash Flow: Threshold earnings, emergency resources, uncollateralized debtGrowing Assets: Home ownership, retirement plan participation, investments,

Protection: Health insurance, life insurance, long-term disability or long-term care

Financial security across the life span is a growing challenge for longer lives. Financial security has deteriorated from 2000 to 2014, particularly among the least educated, who are more likely to live at or near poverty, lack emergncy resources, and are less likely to invest in their financial futures.

Most surprising:

  • A 15-year decline in health insurance coverage among the most vulnerable (those without high school education) has reversed since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, decreasing the likelihood that the financial security of those in this group will be decimated by a health event.


  • Millennials (adults ages 25 to 34) are facing uphill struggles. The incomes of the less educated are often at or near poverty levels while those who went to college are 50% more likely to carry debt and the average debt in this group is 5 times higher than their predecessors carried just 15 years ago.


  • Fewer Americans (two out of three) establish retirement savings plans before age 55. Among those who are ineligible for employer-based plans, only one in three is participating in a plan.

Included in the Index

Meaningful Relationships

• Interactions with family

• Support from family

• Interactions with friends

• Support from friends

• Meaningful interactions with spouse/partnerGroup Involvement

• Neighbor contact

• Volunteering

• Participation in religious and community organizations

• Working for pay

Social engagement, central to long and healthy lives, includes both meaningful relationships and participation in communities. Social engagement is declining along many traditional indicators. It is too soon to tell whether new forms of technology-mediated social engagement are providing social benefits and how they complement face to face engagement.Most surprising:

  • With the exception of 35-44 year olds, community engagement has declined. Interactions with neighbors – who represent physically-accessible and often helpful relationships – are becoming less common.


  • Compared to their counterparts only 20 years ago, members of the Baby Boom generation, are less likely to be married, have weaker ties to family, friends, and neighbors, and are less likely to engage in religious or community activities.


  • Longer lives mean that marriages survive as well. Fifty-three percent of Americans over 75 are married, up from 42 percent in 2003.

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