Most older Washingtonians are happy, healthy, financially secure, independent and delighted not to have to live with their children, according to a Washington Post poll of persons 65 and older.

While a large majority were not born and reared here, 85 percent of them plan to stay for the rest of their lives and the rest are split between saying they will move away or that they are not sure.

A large majority do not live with their children and of these a resounding 95 percent say they do not want to. Of those who do live in their children's homes, 23 percent do not want to be there.

Eighty-three percent of those questioned said they were either "pretty happy" or "very happy," with only 16 percent saying they are "unhappy" or "not too happy." A plurality of 37 percent said they are happier now than when they were younger. Thirty-two percent said they are as happy, and 24 percent less so.

The telephone poll, directed by Washington Post pollster Barry Sussman, was conducted during the week of Oct. 7-13 and has a statistical margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points. The 560 persons surveyed throughout the Washington area did not include older persons living in institutions. Of those 65 and older in the Washington area, 4.5 percent are in institutions and 2 percent are in households with no telephones, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Of those surveyed, 85 percent rated their health as good or excellent, and 86 percent said their financial plans have "worked out well," compared with 10 percent who said they have not.

Older blacks had significantly more economic problems than older whites, however. For example, 83 percent of the whites said they had no difficulty meeting monthly household expenses, compared with 60 percent of the black respondents. Blacks reported having done substantially less planning for retirement than whites, but still 77 percent said their financial plans had worked out well, compared with 88 percent of whites.

Some older Americans still have the responsibilities for yet older parents, and a comment by one Virginia resident shows the dilemma that poses: "I've never even thought about going into a nursing home myself, but I wouldn't want to. I just had to put my mother in one -- she's 98. I didn't want to, but I just couldn't take care of her."