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A Profile of Older Americans: 2012

Highlights*

  • The older population (65+) numbered 41.4 million in 2011, an increase of 6.3 million or 18% since 2000.
  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 33% during this period.
  • Over one in every eight, or 13.3%, 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 23.4 million older women to 17.9 million older men.
  • In 2011, 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), less than 1% were American Indian or Native Alaskan (not Hispanic), and 0.6% 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--72% of men vs. 45% of women (Figure 2). 37% older women in 2012 were widows.
  • About 28% (11.8 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.4 million women, 3.5 million men).
  • Almost half of older women (46%) age 75+ live alone.
  • In 2011, about 497,000 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 million in 2000 to 41.4 million in 2011 (an 18% increase) and is projected to increase to 79.7 million in 2040.
  • The 85+ population is projected to increase from 5.7 million in 2011 to 14.1 million in 2040.
  • Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased from 5.7 million in 2000 (16.3% of the elderly population) to 8.5 million in 2011 (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 2011 was $27,707 for males and $15,362 for females. Median money income (after adjusting for inflation) of all households headed by older people rose by 2% (not statistically significant) from 2010 to 2011. Households containing families headed by persons 65+ reported a median income in 2011 of $48,538.
  • The major sources of income as reported by older persons in 2010 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 26%).
  • Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 36% of beneficiaries in 2010 (23% of married couples and 46% of non-married beneficiaries).
  • Almost 3.6 million elderly persons (8.7%) were below the poverty level in 2011. This poverty rate is not statistically different from the poverty rate in 2010 (8.9%). During 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. The SPM shows a poverty level for older persons of 15.1% (more than 6 percentage points higher than the official rate of 8.7%). 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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