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A Profile of Older Americans: 2010

The Older Population

The older population--persons 65 years or older--numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, over one in every eight Americans. The number of older Americans increased by 4.3 million or 12.5% since 1999, compared to an increase of 12.3% for the under-65 population. However, the number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 26% during this period.

In 2009, there were 22.7 million older women and 16.8 million older men, or a sex ratio of 135 women for every 100 men. The female to male sex ratio increases with age, ranging from 114 for the 65-69 age group to a high of 216 for persons 85 and over.

Since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65+ has more than tripled (from 4.1% in 1900 to 12.9% in 2009), and the number has increased almost thirteen times (from 3.1 million to 39.6 million). The older population itself is increasingly older. In 2008, the 65-74 age group (20.8 million) was 9.5 times larger than in 1900. In contrast, the 75-84 group (13.1 million) was 17 times larger and the 85+ group (5.6 million) was 46 times larger.

In 2007, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 18.6 years (19.9 years for females and 17.2 years for males). A child born in 2007 could expect to live 77.9 years, about 30 years longer than a child born in 1900. Much of this increase occurred because of reduced death rates for children and young adults. However, the period of 1990-2007 also has seen reduced death rates for the population aged 65-84, especially for men – by 41.6% for men aged 65-74 and by 29.5% for men aged 75-84. Life expectancy at age 65 increased by only 2.5 years between 1900 and 1960, but has increased by 4.2 years from 1960 to 2007.

About 2.6 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2009. In the same year, about 1.8 million persons 65 or older died. Census estimates showed an annual net increase of 770,699 in the number of persons 65 and over.

There were 64,024 persons aged 100 or more in 2009 (0.2% of the total 65+ population).*** This is a 72% increase from the 1990 figure of 37,306.

(Data for this section were compiled primarily from Internet releases of the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics/Health Data Interactive).

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Last Modified: 12/31/1600