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A Profile of Older Americans: 2004

Highlights *

  • The older population (65+) numbered 35.9 million in 2003, an increase of 3.1 million or 9.5% since 1993.
  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 39% 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 2003.
  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 18.2 years (19.5 years for females and 16.6 years for males).
  • Older women outnumber older men at 21.0 million older women to 14.9 million older men.
  • In 2003, 17.6% of persons 65+ were minorities--8.2% were African-Americans,** 2.8% were Asian or Pacific Islander,** and less than 1% were American Indian or Native Alaskan.** Persons of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race) represented 5.7% of the older population. In addition, 0.5% of persons 65+ identified themselves as being of two or more races.
  • Older men were much more likely to be married than older women--71% of men vs. 41% of women (Figure 2). Almost half of all older women in 2003 were widows (43%).
  • About 31 percent (10.5 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (7.8 million women, 2.7 million men).
  • Half of older women age 75+ live alone.
  • About 416,000 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 71.5 million.
  • The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.7 million in 2003 to 9.6 million in 2030.
  • Members of minority groups are projected to represent 26.4 percent of the older population in 2030, up from 16.4 percent in 2000.
  • The median income of older persons in 2003 was $20,363 for males and $11,845 for females. Median money income of all households headed by older people (after adjusting for inflation) rose by 0.4% from 2002 to 2003; however, this difference was not statistically significant.
  • For one-third of Americans over 65, Social Security benefits constitute 90% of their income.
  • About 3.6 million elderly persons (10.2%) were below the poverty level in 2003. This poverty rate was not statistically different from the poverty rate in 2002. Another 2.3 million or 6.7% of the elderly were classified as "near-poor" (income between the poverty level and 125% of this level).
  • About 11% (3.7 million) of older Medicare enrollees received personal care from a paid or unpaid source in 1999.

*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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