Fully one quarter of Americans now aged 65 years old are likely to have “severe” need for long-term services and supports as they grow older, according to the results of a new analysis.

The published findings, part of a series on health and retirement from Boston College, describe the risks for 65-year-olds of needing various levels of services and supports over the course of their retirement. About one fifth will require no services at all, investigators found. But a sizable number will “experience the type of severe needs that most people dread,” they added.

The “big question” is whether those needing help will be able to receive informal support from family or friends, or have sufficient finances to pay for formal support, wrote Alicia H. Munnell, Ph.D., and colleagues from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The investigators found expected patterns across sociodemographic groups. Those who needed relatively little support included married individuals, the college educated, whites, and those who reported excellent or very good health. Groups projected to need the most support include single individuals, those without a high school diploma, Blacks and Hispanics, and people who reported poor health.

The findings, published in a brief, are available here.