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Highlights*

  • The older population (65+) numbered 43.1 million in 2012, an increase of 7.6 million or 21% since 2002.
  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 24% between 2002 and 2012.
  • About one in every seven, or 13.7%, of the population is an older American.
  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.2 years (20.4 years for females and 17.8 years for males).
  • Older women outnumber older men at 24.3 million older women to 18.8 million older men.
  • In 2012, 21.0% of persons 65+ were members of racial or ethnic minority populations--9% were African-Americans (not Hispanic), 4% were Asian or Pacific Islander (not Hispanic), .5% were Native American (not Hispanic), and 0.7% of persons 65+ identified themselves as being of two or more races. Persons of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race) represented 7% of the older population.
  • Older men were much more likely to be married than older women--71% of men vs. 45% of women (Figure 2). In 2013, 36% older women were widows.
  • About 28% (12.1 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.4 million women, 3.7 million men).
  • Almost half of older women (45%) age 75+ live alone.
  • In 2012, about 518,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.
  • The population 65 and over has increased from 35.5 million in 2002 to 43.1 million in 2012 (a 21% increase) and is projected to increase to 79.7 million in 2040.
  • The 85+ population is projected to increase from 5.9 million in 2012 to 14.1 million in 2040.
  • Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased from 6.1 million in 2002 (17% of the elderly population) to 8.9 million in 2012 (21% of the elderly) and are projected to increase to 20.2 million in 2030 (28% of the elderly).
  • The median income of older persons in 2012 was $27,612 for males and $16,040 for females. Median money income (after adjusting for inflation) of all households headed by older people rose by .1% (not statistically significant) from 2011 to 2012. Households containing families headed by persons 65+ reported a median income in 2012 of $48,957.
  • The major sources of income as reported by older persons in 2011 were Social Security (reported by 86% of older persons), income from assets (reported by 52%), private pensions (reported by 27%), government employee pensions (reported by 15%), and earnings (reported by 28%).
  • Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 35% of beneficiaries in 2011 (22% of married couples and 45% of non-married beneficiaries).
  • Over 3.9 million elderly persons (9.1%) were below the poverty level in 2012. This poverty rate is statistically different from the poverty rate in 2011 (8.7%). In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau also released a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) which takes into account regional variations in the livings costs, non-cash benefits received, and non-discretionary expenditures but does not replace the official poverty measure. In 2012, the SPM shows a poverty level for older persons of 14.8% (more than 5 percentage points higher than the official rate of 9.1%). This increase is mainly due to including medical out-of-pocket expenses in the poverty calculations.

*Principal sources of data for the Profile are the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Profile incorporates the latest data available but not all items are updated on an annual basis.

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