Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being (Older Americans 2010)
is the fifth in a series of reports produced by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (Forum) that describe the overall status of the U.S. population age 65 and over. Once again, this report uses data from over a dozen national data sources to construct broad indicators of well-being for the older population and to monitor changes in these indicators over time. By following these data trends, more accessible information will be available to target efforts to improve the lives of older Americans.
With the exception of the indicator on nursing home utilization, for which new data are not available at this time, all indicators from the last edition reappear in Older Americans 2010. 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 2010 is designed to present data in a nontechnical, user-friendly format; it complements other more technical and comprehensive reports produced by the individual Forum agencies. The report includes 37 indicators that are grouped 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 in the Table of Contents on page IX.
Each indicator includes the following:
- 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.
- Bulleted highlights of salient ﬁndings from the data and other sources. The data used to develop the indicators and their accompanying bullets 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 2010 presents 37 key indicators that measure critical aspects of older people’s lives. The Forum chose these indicators because they meet the following criteria:
- Easy to understand by a wide range of audiences.
- Based on reliable, nationwide data (sponsored, collected, or disseminated by the federal government).
- 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.
- Representative of large segments of the aging population, rather than one particular group.
Considerations When Examining the Indicators
Older Americans 2010 generally addresses the U.S. population age 65 and over. Mutually exclusive age groups (e.g., age 65–74, 75–84, and 85 and over) are reported whenever possible.
Data availability and analytical relevance may affect the speciﬁc age groups that are included for an indicator. For example, because of small sample sizes in some surveys, statistically reliable data for the population age 85 and over often are not available. Conversely, data from the population younger than age 65 sometimes are included if they are relevant to the interpretation of the indicator. For example, in “Indicator 11: Participation in the Labor Force,” a comparison with a younger population enhances the interpretation of the labor force trends among people age 65 and over.
To standardize the age distribution of the 65 and over population across years, some estimates have been age adjusted by multiplying age-specific rates by age-specific weights. If an indicator has been age adjusted, it will be stated in the note under the chart(s) as well as under the corresponding table(s) in Appendix A.
Because the older population is becoming more diverse, analyses often are presented by sex, race and Hispanic origin, income, and other characteristics.
Updated indicators in Older Americans 2010 are not always comparable to indicators in Older Americans 2000, 2004, Update 2006, or Older Americans 2008. The replication of certain indicators with updated data is sometimes difficult because of changes in data sources, deﬁnitions, questionnaires, and/or reporting categories. A comparability table is available on the Forum’s website at http://agingstats.gov to help readers understand the changes that have taken place.
The reference population (the base population sampled at the time of data collection) for each indicator is clearly labeled under each chart and table and deﬁned in the glossary. Whenever possible, the indicators include data on the U.S. resident population (i.e., people living in the community and people living in institutions). However, some indicators show data only for the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Because the older population residing in nursing homes (and other long-term care institutional settings) is excluded from samples based on the noninstitutionalized population, caution should be exercised when attempting to generalize the ﬁndings from these data sources to the entire population age 65 and over. This is especially true for the older age groups. For example in 2008, only 86 percent of the population age 85 and over was included in the civilian noninstitutionalized population as deﬁned by the U.S. Census Bureau.
In the charts, tick marks along the x-axis indicate years for which data are available. The range of years presented in each chart varies because data availability is not uniform across the data sources. To standardize the time frames across the indicators, a timeline has been placed at the bottom of each indicator that reports data for more than one year.
Accuracy of the Estimates
Most estimates in this report are based on a sample of the population and are, therefore, subject to sampling error. Standard tests of statistical signiﬁcance have been used to determine whether the differences between populations exist at generally accepted levels of conﬁdence or whether they occurred by chance. Unless otherwise noted, only differences that are statistically significant at the 0.05 level are discussed in the text. To indicate the reliability of the estimates, standard errors for selected estimates in the chartbook can be found on the Forum’s website at http://agingstats.gov.
Finally, the data in some indicators may not sum to totals because of rounding.
Sources of Data
The data used to create the charts 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 is available on the Forum’s website at http://agingstats.gov.
Occasionally, 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 (page 66). 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.
Because Older Americans 2010 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. Although 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
The Forum’s mission is to encourage cooperation and collaboration among federal agencies to improve the quality and utility of data on the aging population. To accomplish this mission, the Forum provides agencies with a venue to discuss data issues and concerns that cut across agency boundaries, facilitates the development of new databases, improves mechanisms currently used to disseminate information on aging-related data, invites researchers to report on cutting-edge analyses of data, and encourages international collaboration.
The speciﬁc goals of the Forum are to improve both the quality and use of data on the aging population by:
- Widening access to information on the aging population through periodic publications and other means.
- Promoting communication among data producers, researchers, and public policy- makers.
- Coordinating the development and use of statistical databases among federal agencies.
- Identifying information gaps and data inconsistencies.
- Investigating questions of data quality.
- Encouraging cross-national research and data collection on the aging population.
- Addressing concerns regarding collection, access, and dissemination of data.
The Forum members provide funds and valuable staff time to support the activities of the Forum.
If you would like more information about Older Americans 2010 or other Forum activities, contact:
Elena M. Fazio, Ph.D.
Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics
3311 Toledo Road, Room 6321
Hyattsville, MD 20782
Phone: (301) 458–4460
Fax: (301) 458–4038
Older Americans on the Internet
Supporting material for this report can be found at http://agingstats.gov. The website contains the following:
- Data for all of the indicators in Excel spreadsheets
(with standard errors, when available).
- Data source descriptions.
- PowerPoint slides of the charts.
- A comparability table explaining the changes to the indicators that have taken place between Older Americans 2000, 2004, Update 2006, Older Americans 2008, and Older Americans 2010.
The Forum’s website also provides:
- Ongoing federal data resources relevant to the study of the aging.
- Links to aging-related statistical information on Forum member websites.
- Other Forum publications (including Data Sources on Older Americans 2009).
- Workshop presentations, papers, and reports.
- Agency contacts.
- Subject area contact list for federal statistics.
- Information about the Forum.
Additional Online Resources