Social and Economic Influences on Older Adults’ Preparations for End-of-Life Health Care Needs

Deborah Carr, Rutgers University
Dmitry Khodyakov, Rutgers University

Sociologists have documented the importance of social relationships and personal resources for health and longevity, yet few studies explore whether the “quality” of one’s death is affected by an individual’s social characteristics. We investigate whether marital status and educational attainment affect the preparations that older adults make for their end-of-life health care needs, because such preparations have been identified as an important precondition for a “good death.” We focus on three specific preparations: (1) appointing a durable power of attorney for health care; (2) completing a “living will;” and (3) discussing one’s health care preferences with significant others. Data are from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, a large survey of 64 years olds who graduated Wisconsin high schools in 1957. Our analyzes show that educational attainment is associated with the likelihood of preparing for the end-of-life, whereas marital status affects the perceived quality and effectiveness of those preparations.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Aging, Life Course, Health, Mortality, and Health Care