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A Profile of Older Americans: 2002


  • The older population (65+) numbered 35.0 million in 2000 (the most recent year for which data are available), an increase of 3.7 million or 12.0% since 1990.

  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – the "babyboomers" who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 34% during this decade.

  • About one in every eight, or 12.4 percent, of the population is an older American.

  • Over 2.0 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2000 (5,574 per day).

  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 17.89 years (19.2 years for females and 16.30 years for males).

  • Older women outnumber older men at 20.6 million older women to 14.4 million older men.

  • About 30 percent (9.7 million) noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (7.4 million women, 2.4 million men).

  • Half of older women age 75+ live alone.

  • Almost 400,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.

  • By the year 2030, the older population will more than double to about 70 million.

  • The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2030.

  • Members of minority groups are projected to represent 25 percent of the older population in 2030, up from 16 percent in 2000.

  • The median income of older persons in 2001 was $19,688 for males and $11,313 for females.  Real median income (after adjusting for inflation) fell by -2.6% for older people since 2000.

  • The Social Security Administration reported that the major sources of income for older people was:
    • Social Security (reported by 90 percent of older persons),

    • Income from assets (reported by 59 percent),

    • Public and private pensions (reported by 41 percent), and

    • Earnings (reported by 22 percent).

About 3.4 million older persons lived below the poverty level in 2001. The poverty rate for persons 65+ continued at a historically low rate of 10.1 percent. Another 2.2 million older adults were classified as "near poor" (income between poverty level and 125 percent of this level).

* Principal sources of data for the Profile are the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the National Center on 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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