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Women more likely than men to say spouse is unprepared for finance and health

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NEW YORK (Business Wire) -- A MetLife Mature Market Institute poll, "Gender Differences: Do Men and Women View Long-Term Care Differently?," conducted in coordination with AARP Health Care Options, reveals that men and women are in agreement that their spouse or partner will care for them if they become disabled, but that women are more likely than men to believe their children will be their caregivers.

The study reports that men are just as likely as women to expect to be the caregiver for their spouse or partner if their spouse becomes disabled. Women are more likely than men to view their spouse or partner as unprepared to take care of finances and to manage health issues should their spouse/partner predecease them. Women respond that while they are better prepared to do the cooking, one-third fear they will not be able to care for the house and yard.

Most men and women feel they are emotionally prepared to live alone if they outlive their spouse. When asked how prepared they believe their spouse or partner is to live alone, however, more men felt that their wife or partner could cope; fewer women felt that their husbands would be prepared.

"This data is revealing in that it shatters some gender myths and stereotypes while it reinforces others," said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. "The study reports that half of women feel their spouse is not fully prepared to live alone, emotionally. But, when questioned, most men believe they are emotionally prepared. It also seems that women are more confident about their own preparation to handle finances than they are about their husbands' abilities in that regard. The study shows that men and women do have slightly differing views on how they see their future long-term care needs."

Examples of important findings in the study are:

* Nine out of 10 married or partnered men say it is very or somewhat likely that their spouse/partner would become their primary caregiver if they became disabled and needed daily assistance (88 percent), compared to 72 percent of women who say this is the case.

* A larger share of women than men say it is very likely that they will become their spouse's/partner's primary caregiver (77 percent vs. 61 percent).

* Among those with children or stepchildren, four in 10 men believe it is likely that the children will become their primary caregiver (41 percent), while more than half of women think this is likely (55 percent).

* Nearly all older Americans who are married or living with a partner believe they are at least somewhat prepared to live alone (men 86 percent, women 90 percent). However, a larger share of men than women believe their spouse/partner is at least somewhat prepared (83 percent vs. 67 percent).

* Emotional readiness for being alone is the biggest issue for men with 35 percent reporting they are not fully prepared, similar to 30 percent of women who feel this way. Men are more likely than women to say they are unprepared to handle cooking (men 14 percent vs. women 2 percent). Women are more apt to say that upkeep of the home and yard is an issue (women 34 percent vs. men 18 percent).

* Women are more likely than men to view their spouse as unprepared to take care of finances and bills (36 percent vs. 26 percent) or to manage his/her health care (25 percent vs. 9 percent).

Long-term care financing -- a common misconception

When it comes to long-term care insurance, 16 percent of men and 14 percent of women age 50 and older say they own it. More men than women are very confident they would be able to pay for long-term care services. Men are more likely to say they could pay for at least one year of nursing home care -- at a cost of $66,000 per year -- using their current savings, investments, assets or long-term care insurance.

There is some misconception about how individuals believe they can pay for long-term care. Three in 10 men and women think they can pay the largest share of their long-term care costs with sources that are not designed to cover these expenses like Medicare, health insurance and disability insurance.

"The confusion about payment for long-term care costs continues to be an issue," said Mathew Greenwald of Mathew Greenwald & Associates Inc., which conducted the poll. "Those over 50 are often mistaken about whether Medicare or insurance, other than long-term care insurance, will pay for home care, assisted living or nursing home care. Clearly, more public education is needed on this issue."

"As this research validates, many individuals are unfamiliar with financing options and are confused by what is available for the 50-plus population for long-term care services," said Julie Alexis, director of marketing and business development, Health Products and Services, AARP Health Care Options. "AARP understands and is committed to providing the education and resources around caregiving and long-term care services that our members come to value."

The August 2004 survey was conducted online by Mathew Greenwald & Associates Inc. and sent to a demographically balanced sample of 1,000 Internet study panelists ages 50 and older. If the sample is representative of the 50 and older U.S. population, the sample size would lead to a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. The group was half male and half female, and 78 percent of men and 56 percent of women were married or living with a partner. Seventeen percent of men and 40 percent of women were divorced, widowed or separated, and 6 percent of men and 4 percent of women were single. Twenty-eight percent of men and 39 percent of women were ages 50 to 58. Nineteen percent of men and 25 percent of women were 59 to 64. Fifty-two percent of men and 36 percent of women were 65 or older.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. More information can be found at its Web site, www.aarp.org.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute is the focal point and resource center of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (MetLife) for issues concerning aging, retirement, long-term care and the mature market. For more information, visit www.maturemarketinstitute.com or www.metlife.com.

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