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 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being (Older Americans 2010) provides a comprehensive picture of our older population’s health and well-being. It is the fifth 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.
Many of the estimates reported in Older Americans 2010 were collected in 2007 and 2008, the years straddling the large-scale financial downturn that began in December 2007. Thus, although this was an economically challenging time, the data reported in Older Americans 2010 do not in all cases reflect this crisis. The Forum did produce a short report, Data Sources on the Impact of the 2008 Financial Crisis on the Economic Well-being of Older Americans at the end of 2009 that provides information about data sources that may shed light on the effects of the economic downturn on the well-being 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. Two years ago, in Older Americans 2008, the Forum identified six data need areas: caregiving, elder abuse, functioning and disability, mental health, pension measures, and residential care. In Older Americans 2010, we provide updated information on the status of data availability for those specific areas and add a new call for data on end-of-life issues. We continue to appreciate users’ requests for greater detail for many existing indicators of well-being. The Forum encourages 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 agencies.
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 (http://www.agingstats.gov). I hope that our compendium will continue to be useful in your work.
Katherine K. Wallman
Office of Management and Budget