The National Survey on Credit Card Debt, conducted last year for AARP by Demos, surveyed 997 middle-income households that carried credit card debt for at least three months.
Households headed by someone age 50 and older carried an average credit card balance of $8,278, compared with an average debt of $6,258 for households headed by someone younger than age 50.
The survey also found:
► Half of the older households paid for medical expenses, such as prescription drugs and dental expenses, with their credit cards;
► 34% of the older households used their credit cards to pay for basic living expenses such as groceries, utilities, and housing;
► Job loss was a factor in running up credit card debt in nearly 25% of older households; and
► 23% of older households have taken on credit card debt to help other family members, versus 11% of younger households.