Indicator 1: Number of Older American
The growth of the population age 65 and older has affected
every aspect of our society, presenting challenges as well as opportunities to
policymakers, families, businesses, and health care providers.
2000, there are an estimated 35 million people age 65 or older in the United
States, accounting for almost 13 percent of the total population. The number
of older Americans has increased more than ten-fold since 1900, when there
were 3 million people age 65 or older (4 percent of the total population).
Despite the growth of the older population, the United States is a
relatively young country when compared with other developed nations. In many
industrialized countries, older persons account for 15 percent or more of
the total population.
2011, the “baby boom” generation will begin to turn 65, and by 2030, it
is projected that one in five people will be age 65 or older. The size of
the older population is projected to double over the next 30 years, growing
to 70 million by 2030.
in most countries of the world, there are more older women than older men in
the United States, and the proportion of the population that is female
increases with age. In 2000, women are estimated to account for 58 percent
of the population age 65 and older and 70 percent of the population age 85
population age 85 and older is currently the fastest growing segment of the
older population. In 2000, an estimated 2 percent of the population is age
85 and older. By 2050, the percentage in this age group is projected to
increase to almost 5 percent of the U.S. population. The size of this age
group is especially important for the future of our health care system,
because these individuals tend to be in poorer health and require more
services than the younger old.
by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that the population age 85 and older could
grow from about 4 million in 2000 to 19 million by 2050. Some researchers
predict that death rates at older ages will decline more rapidly than
reflected in the Census Bureau’s projections, which could result in faster
growth of this population.
proportion of the population age 65 and older varies among states. This
proportion is partly affected by the state mortality rate and the number of
older persons who migrate to a state. It is also affected by the number of
younger persons who move to other states. In 2000, the states with the
highest proportions of older persons are Florida, West Virginia,
Pennsylvania, Iowa, and North Dakota.
are about 65,000 people age 100 or older in 2000, and the number of
centenarians is projected to grow quickly so that there may be as many as
381,000 by 2030. Research
on the demographics of centenarians, along with clinical, biomedical, and
genetic measures, may provide clues to the factors associated with their
Data for this indicator can be found in
Tables 1a, 1b,1c, and 1d.
Indicator 2: Racial and Ethnic Composition
As the older population grows larger, it will also grow
more diverse, reflecting the demographic changes in the U.S. population as a
whole over the past century. Over the next 50 years, programs and services for
the older population will require greater flexibility to meet the demands of a
diverse and changing population.
2000, an estimated 84 percent of people age 65 or older are non-Hispanic
white, 8 percent are non-Hispanic black, 2 percent are non-Hispanic Asian
and Pacific Islander, and less than 1 percent are non-Hispanic American
Indian and Alaska Native. Hispanic persons are estimated to make up 6
percent of the older population. By 2050, the percentage of the older
population that is non-Hispanic white is expected to decline from 84 percent
to 64 percent. Hispanic persons are projected to account for 16 percent of
the older population; 12 percent of the population is projected to be
non-Hispanic black; and 7 percent of the population is projected to be
non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander.
the older populations will increase among all racial and ethnic groups, the
Hispanic older population is projected to grow the fastest, from about 2
million in 2000 to over 13 million by 2050. In fact, by 2028, the Hispanic
population age 65 and older is projected to outnumber the non-Hispanic black
population in that age group.
Data for this indicator can be found in Tables 2a and 2b.
Indicator 3: Marital Status
Marital status can strongly affect a person’s emotional
and economic well-being by influencing living arrangements and availability of
caregivers among older Americans with an illness or disability.
1998, 79 percent of men ages 65 to 74 were married, compared with 55 percent
of women in the same age group. Among persons age 85 or older, about 50
percent of men were married, compared with only 13 percent of women.
women are much more likely to be widowed than are older men due to a
combination of factors, including sex differences in life expectancy, the
tendency for women to marry men who are slightly older, and higher
remarriage rates for older widowed men than widowed women.
In 1998, about 77 percent of women age 85 or older were widowed, compared
with 42 percent of men.
1998, about 7 percent of the older population was divorced, and only a small
percentage of the older population had never married (4 percent of men and 5
percent of women).
Data for this indicator can be found in Table 3.
Indicator 4: Educational Attainment
Educational attainment influences socioeconomic status, and
thus can play a role in well-being at older ages. Higher levels of education are
usually associated with higher incomes, higher standards of living, and
above-average health status among older Americans.
1950, only 18 percent of America’s older population had finished high
school. By 1998, about 67 percent of people age 65 or older had completed
high school. The percentage of older Americans with at least a bachelor’s
degree increased from 4 percent in 1950 to almost 15 percent in 1998.
1998, about 20 percent of older men had a bachelor’s degree or higher,
compared with 11 percent of older women. About two-thirds of both men and
women had finished high school.
the overall increase in educational attainment among older Americans, there
are still substantial educational differences among racial and ethnic
groups. In 1998, about 72 percent of the non-Hispanic white population age
65 and older had finished high school, compared with 65 percent of the
non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander older population, 44 percent of the
non-Hispanic black older population, and 29 percent of the Hispanic older
1998, 16 percent of non-Hispanic white older Americans had a bachelor’s
degree or higher, compared with 22 percent of older non-Hispanic Asian and
Data for this indicator can be found in Tables 4a and 4b.
Indicator 5: Living Arrangements
Like marital status, the living arrangements of America’s
older population are important because they are closely linked to income, health
status, and the availability of caregivers. Older persons who live alone are
more likely to be in poverty than older persons who live with their spouses.
1998, 73 percent of older men lived with their spouses, 7 percent lived with
other relatives, 3 percent lived with nonrelatives, and 17 percent lived
women are more likely to live alone than are older men. In 1998, older women
were as likely to live with a spouse as they were to live alone, about 41
percent each. Approximately 17 percent of older women lived with other
relatives and 2 percent lived with nonrelatives.
arrangements among older women also vary by race and Hispanic origin. In
1998, about 41 percent of older white and older black women lived alone,
compared with 27 percent of older Hispanic women and 21 percent of older
Asian and Pacific Islander women. While 15 percent of older white women
lived with other relatives, approximately one third of older black, Asian
and Pacific Islander, and Hispanic women lived with other relatives.
percentage of women age 75 or older who live alone increased from 37 percent
in 1970 to 53 percent in 1998. The percentage of women ages 65 to 74 who
live alone has fluctuated over time, from 32 percent in 1970, to 36 percent
in 1980, to 30 percent in 1998.
rates are higher for older women who live alone than they are for older
women who live with a spouse. In 1998, about 19 percent of white older women
who lived alone were in poverty and approximately half of older black and
Hispanic women who lived alone were in poverty.
Data for this indicator can be found in Tables 5a and 5b.