Americans age 65 and over are an important and growing segment of our population.
Many Federal agencies provide data on aspects of older Americans’ lives, but it
can be difficult to fit the pieces together. Thus, it has become increasingly
important for policymakers and the general public to have an accessible, easy to
understand portrait that shows how older Americans are faring.
Older Americans 2008: Key Indicators of Well-Being (Older Americans 2008)
a unified picture of our older population’s health and well-being. It is the
fourth chartbook prepared by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics
(Forum), which now has 15 participating Federal agencies. As with the earlier
volumes, readers will ﬁnd here an accessible compendium of indicators drawn from
the most reliable official statistics. The indicators are again categorized
into ﬁve broad groups: population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors,
and health care.
The Forum is pleased to include in this edition a one-time special feature based
on the health literacy component of the National Center for Education Statistics’
2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. This is the first-ever national
assessment designed specifically to measure adults’ ability to use literacy skills
to read and understand health-related information.
This year’s report also incorporates two new regular indicators: housing problems
and use of time. The first, the ability to afford quality housing, is an issue
fundamental to the well-being of all Americans. The second, how older people spend
their time, resulted from a workshop the Forum cosponsored with the Gerontological
Society of America. The short-term goal of the workshop was to help identify
a new indicator on social activity to replace an earlier one based on a data source
that has been discontinued. The long-term goal was to identify data needs
that could lead to future collaborations.
The Forum believes these two new indicators will enhance our portrait of older Americans.
While Federal agencies currently collect and report substantial information on the
population age 65 and over, there remain gaps in our knowledge. This year,
the Forum identified six areas where data are needed to develop new indicators:
caregiving, elder abuse, functional limitations and disability, mental health, pension
measures, and residential care. We also appreciate users’ requests for greater
detail for many existing indicators. The Forum continues to encourage extending
age reporting categories, oversampling older racial and ethnic populations, collecting
data at lower levels of geography, and including the institutionalized population
in national surveys. By displaying what we know and do not know, this report
challenges Federal statistical agencies to do even better.
The Older Americans reports reflect the Forum’s commitment to advancing our understanding
of where older Americans stand today and what they may face tomorrow. I congratulate
the Forum agencies for joining together to enhance their work and present the American
people with a valuable tool. 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
We invite you to suggest ways in which we can enhance this biennial portrait of
older Americans. Please send comments to us at the Forum’s website (www.agingstats.gov).
I hope that our compendium will continue to be useful in your work.
Katherine K. Wallman
Office of Management and Budget