Just last year, the oldest members of the “Baby Boom” generation (that is, Americans born between 1946 and 1964) turned 65. As has been the case since the birth of this cohort, this very large generation will bring important challenges to the systems and institutions that support and enhance American life. Although many Federal agencies provide data on aspects of older Americans’ lives, 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 of how older Americans fare.
Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being (Older Americans 2012) provides a comprehensive, easy-to-understand picture of our older population’s health, finances, and well-being. It is the sixth such chart book prepared by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (Forum). 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. In addition, the report contains a special feature on end-of-life care and place of death.
Many of the estimates reported in Older Americans 2012 were collected in 2008 and 2009. Thus, many of the indicators in this report reflect the experience of older Americans during this economically challenging time period. What has yet to be reported here is the longer-term impact of the recession and its financial disruptions. In response, the Forum has initiated a closer look at the earnings, savings, and income of older Americans, particularly given recent changes to retirement and pension plans. Those findings will be shared in a future report.
Although Federal agencies currently collect and report substantial information on the population age 65 and over, other important gaps in our knowledge remain. Two years ago, in Older Americans 2010, the Forum identified six such data need areas: care giving, elder abuse, functioning and disability, mental health, residential care, and end of life. In Older Americans 2012, we provide updated information on the status of data availability for these specific areas, in addition to the end of life special feature.
We continue to appreciate users’ requests for greater detail for many existing indicators of well-being. We also extend an invitation to all of our readers and partners to let us know what else we can do to make our reports and other products more accessible and useful. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 present the American people with such valuable tools for understanding the well-being of the older population. 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 for the American people.
Katherine K. Wallman
Office of Management and Budget