The Role of Race in Future Care Planning—Not What It Seems

Planning for one’s future care can be difficult to even consider, but it tends to be even less common among African Americans. One study aimed to provide a better explanation for why this is the case.

Researchers wanted to find out if there are racial differences in considering and executing future care planning, as well as if such differences can be explained by factors other than race. Over 400 community-dwelling adults age 60 and better (average age 79) completed a survey on future care planning, optimism, religiosity, disability, and demographic characteristics. About one-quarter of participants were African American and the rest were white.

African American and white older adults reported similar rates of considering future care planning (31% and 38%, respectively), but execution of future care planning was significantly lower for African Americans (6%) than for whites (14%). Older adults of either race were more likely to think about future care planning if they had at least a high school degree, were not married, or were younger. However, religiosity and optimism did not influence consideration of future care planning.

Interestingly, race no longer influenced execution of future care plans when accounting for these other factors. Specifically, more optimistic and less educated older adults were less likely to execute their future care plans. African American older adults reported significantly higher levels of optimism and were more likely to have not completed high school, so this may be why race initially appeared to influence care planning.

Being more optimistic is generally a good thing and may be particularly useful for older adults who have faced numerous hardships, but it also means these individuals may have unrealistic expectations for needing future care. Additional strategies should be developed to encourage future care planning regardless of one’s outlook. Only about a third of older adults in this sample reported even thinking about future care plans, while only about one in ten actually set concrete plans. This finding alone suggests the need for more efforts to encourage future care planning in older adults.


Want to keep up with recent research that’s relevant to aging services? Use the form below to subscribe to our monthly InvestigAge email.



Kahana E, Kahana B, Bhatta T, Langendoerfer KB, Eun Lee J, and Lekhak N. Racial differences in future care planning in late life. Ethnicity & Health (2019); doi:10.1080/13557858.2019.1573974

Self-Fulfilling ProphecyHow Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years

Learn how older adults’ perceptions of aging—and their self-perceptions—can have serious effects on their health, behaviors, and even longevity.

Download FREE Copy

    Add insight to your inbox

    Join our email list to receive information about the latest research from Mather Institute. Just complete the form below to subscribe.

    Thank you!

    You are now subscribed to the email list.
    A confirmation has been sent to the email you provided.

    Continue to Website Share with a Friend