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Foreword

Americans age 65 and over are an important and growing segment of our population. Many Federal agencies provide data on various aspects of the challenges confronting older Americans. Because these data come from multiple agencies, it is sometimes difficult to understand how this group is faring overall. In light of the anticipated growth of this segment of our population, it is increasingly important for policymakers and the general public to have an accessible, easy to understand portrait that shows how older Americans are doing.

Older Americans 2004: Key Indicators of Well-Being (Older Americans) provides a united picture of the health and well-being of our older population. This is the second chartbook prepared by the Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (Forum), which now has participants from a dozen Federal agencies. As with the previous volume issued in 2000, readers will find here an accessible compendium of indicators -- drawn from the most reliable official statistics -- illustrative of both the promises and the difficulties confronting older Americans.

This publication provides 37 key indicators about important aspects of older Americans' lives. The indicators in this volume are categorized into five broad groups: population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and health care. This year's report includes a number of new measures, including older veterans and veterans' health care, sensory impairments, obesity, cigarette smoking, air quality, prescription drugs, health insurance, sources of payment for heath care, and residential services. All of the indicators are easy to understand by broad audiences, objectively based on substantial research connecting them to reliable data on well-being, balanced so that no single area dominates the report, measured regularly so that they can be updated to show trends over time, and representative of large segments of the population rather than one particular group.

While Federal agencies currently collect and report substantial information on the population age 65 and over, there remain several important areas where there are gaps in our knowledge. In addition to the data needs listed in the previous volume, three new data needs have been added to this year's chartbook. The Forum continues to work together to find innovative ways to fill these data needs. By displaying what the government knows and what it does not know, this report challenges Federal statistical agencies to do even better.

The value of the Older Americans reports reflects the Forum's innovative, determined spirit to advance our understanding of where older Americans are today and what may be needed to bring them a better tomorrow. The agencies participating in the Forum should be congratulated on the effort that went into creating Older Americans. This volume reflects the dedication of the Forum agency staff members who conducted special analyses, evaluated strategies to make data presentations more consistent and clear, and coordinated the assessment of data needs. They joined together to give the American people a valuable tool for tracking the condition of those who are age 65 and over, and for making policy decisions that will affect them. Last, but not least, none of this work would be possible without the continued cooperation of millions of American citizens who willingly provide the data that are summarized and analyzed by staff in the Federal agencies.

The Forum anticipates publishing additional volumes of this chartbook on a periodic basis, every 3 to 5 years. We invite you to suggest ways we can enhance this portrait of our population age 65 and over. Please send comments to us at the Forum's Web site (http://www.agingstats.gov). I applaud the Forum's collaborative efforts in producing this report and hope that it will be a useful contribution to your work.

Katherine K. Wallman
Chief Statistician
Office of Management and Budget

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