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About This Report

In an effort to describe the overall status of the U.S. population age 65 and older, the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (Forum) has produced Older Americans 2000: Key Indicators of Well-Being (Older Americans). This new report focuses on several important areas in the lives of older people—population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and health care.

Older Americans is the first in a continuing series of reports the Forum plans to produce. Federal agencies have collaborated to create a comprehensive set of indicators that can be followed over time. By following these data trends, more accessible information will be available to target efforts that can improve the lives of older Americans.

The Forum hopes that this report will stimulate discussions by policymakers and the public, encourage exchanges between the data and policy communities, and foster improvements in Federal data collection on older Americans. By examining a broad range of indicators, researchers, policymakers, service providers, and the Federal government can better understand the areas of well-being that are improving for older Americans and the areas of well-being that require more attention and effort.

Structure of the Report

Older Americans is designed to present data in a nontechnical, user-friendly format; it complements other more technical and comprehensive reports produced by the Forum agencies. The report includes 31 indicators that are divided into five sections: Population, Economics, Health Status, Health Risks and Behaviors, and Health Care. A list of the indicators included in this report is located on p. viii.

Each indicator includes:

  • an introductory paragraph that describes the relevance of the indicator to the well-being of the older population;
  • one or more charts that graphically display analyses of the data; and
  • bulleted highlights of salient findings from the data and other sources.

The data used to develop each indicator are presented in table format in Appendix A. Data source descriptions are provided in Appendix B. A glossary is supplied in Appendix C.

Selection Criteria for Indicators

Older Americans presents a selected set of key indicators that measure critical aspects of older people’s lives. The Forum chose these indicators because they are:

  • easy to understand by a wide range of audiences;
  • based on reliable, nationwide, official data (collected or sponsored by Federal or state governments);
  • objectively based on substantial research that connects them to the well-being of older Americans;
  • balanced so that no single area dominates the report;
  • measured periodically (not necessarily annually) so that they can be updated as appropriate and show trends over time; and
  • representative of large segments of the aging population, rather than one particular group.

Considerations When Examining the Indicators

Older Americans generally addresses the U.S. population age 65 and older. Mutually exclusive age groups (e.g., ages 65 to 74, 75 to 84, and age 85 and older) are reported whenever possible. Because life expectancy is increasing and larger numbers of people will be entering older age cohorts, future reports will aim to include information on the population ages 85 to 94 and 95 and older.

Data availability and analytical relevance may affect the specific age groups that are included for an indicator. For example, the first and second Supplements on Aging (see Data Source Descriptions) collected data only on the population age 70 and older. Because of small sample sizes in some surveys, statistically reliable data for the population age 85 and older often are not available. Conversely, data from the population younger than age 65 sometimes are included if they help in the interpretation of the indicator. For example, in "Indicator 10: Participation in the Labor Force," a comparison with a younger population enhances the interpretation of the labor force trends among people age 65 or older.

Because the older population is becoming more diverse, analyses often are presented by sex, race and Hispanic origin, income, and other characteristics.

Data are presented for mutually exclusive racial and ethnic groups whenever possible. Hispanic origin classification is provided when the data are available. When racial groups are listed without the "non-Hispanic" classification, both Hispanics and non-Hispanics are included in those racial groups. Data for racial groups that comprise a smaller proportion of the population (e.g., American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander) are included whenever sample sizes are large enough to allow reliable statistical estimates.

The reference population for the indicators sometimes differs. Whenever possible, the indicators include data on the resident population (i.e., people living in the community and people living in institutions). However, some indicators show data only for the civilian noninstitutional population. Because the older population residing in nursing homes is excluded from samples based on the noninstitutional population, caution should be exercised when attempting to generalize the findings from these data sources to the entire population age 65 and older. The reference population (the base population sampled at the time of enrollment) for each indicator in this report is clearly labeled and defined in the glossary.

Data are age-adjusted when this is the standard procedure used by the Forum agency contributing the data.

In the charts, tick marks along the x-axis indicate years for which data are available. The range of years presented in each chart is not standardized because data availability is not uniform across the different data sources used in this report.

Finally, the data in some indicators may not sum to totals due to rounding.

Sources of Data

The data used to create each chart are provided in tables in the back of the report (Appendix A). The tables also contain data that are described in the bullets below each chart. The source of the data for each indicator is noted below the chart.

Descriptions of the data sources can be found in Appendix B. Additional information about these data sources also is available in the 1999 publication Data Base News in Aging, which can be obtained from the Forum’s Staff Director.

Sometimes, data from another publication are included to give a more complete explanation of the indicator. The citations for these sources are included in the References section (p. 53). For those who wish to access the survey data used in this chartbook, contact information is given for each of the data sources in Appendix B.

Data Needs

Because Older Americans is a collaborative effort of many Federal agencies, a comprehensive array of data was available for inclusion in this report. However, even with all of the data available, there are still areas where scant data exist. While the indicators that were chosen cover a broad range of components that affect well-being, there are other issues that the Forum would like to address in the future. These issues are identified in the Data Needs section (p. 51). By identifying and highlighting these data needs, the Forum—as well as other policymakers, researchers, and service providers—will be better able to focus their future efforts.

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Last Modified: 12/31/1600 7:00:00 PM