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Population

Indicator 1. Number of Older Americans
The growth of the population age 65 and over affects many aspects of our society, challenging families, businesses, health care providers, and policymakers, among others, to meet the needs of aging individuals.

Pop. Chart1
  • In 2010, 40 million people age 65 and over lived in the United States, accounting for 13 percent of the total population. The older population grew from 3 million in 1900 to 40 million in 2010. The oldest-old population (those age 85 and over) grew from just over 100,000 in 1900 to 5.5 million in 2010.
  • The “Baby Boomers” (those born between 1946 and 1964) started turning 65 in 2011, and the number of older people will increase dramatically during the 2010–2030 period. The older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as their counterparts in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • The growth rate of the older population is projected to slow after 2030, when the last “Baby Boomers” enter the ranks of the older population. From 2030 onward, the proportion age 65 and over will be relatively stable, at around 20 percent, even though the absolute number of people age 65 and over is projected to continue to grow. The oldest-old population is projected to grow rapidly after 2030, when the “Baby Boomers” move into this age group.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population age 85 and over could grow from 5.5 million in 2010 to 19 million by 2050. Some researchers predict that death rates at older ages will decline more rapidly than is reflected in the U.S. Census Bureau’s projections, which could lead to faster growth of this population.1–3
Popl. Chart1b
  • The proportion of the population age 65 and over varies by state. This proportion is partly affected by the state fertility and mortality levels and partly by the number of older and younger people who migrate to and from the state. In 2010, Florida had the highest proportion of people age 65 and over (17 percent). Maine, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia also had high proportions (over 15 percent).
  • The proportion of the population age 65 and over varies even more by county. In 2010, 43 percent of Sumter County, Florida, was age 65 and over, the highest proportion in the country. In several Florida counties, the proportion was over 30 percent. At the other end of the spectrum was Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska, with only 3.5 percent of its population age 65 and over.
  • Older women outnumbered older men in the United States, and the proportion that is female increased with age. In 2010, women accounted for 57 percent of the population age 65 and over and for 67 percent of the population age 85 and over.
  • The United States is fairly young for a developed country, with 13 percent of its population age 65 and over in 2010. Japan had the highest percent of age 65 and over (23 percent) among countries with a population of at least 1 million. The older population made up more than 15 percent of the population in most European countries, around 20 percent in Germany and Italy.

Indicator 2. Racial and Ethnic Composition
As the older population grows larger, it will also grow more diverse, reflecting the demographic changes in the U.S. population as a whole over the last several decades. By 2050, programs and services for older people will require greater flexibility to meet the needs of a more diverse population.

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  • In 2010, non-Hispanic Whites accounted for 80 percent of the U.S. older population. Blacks made up 9 percent, Asians made up 3 percent, and Hispanics (of any race) accounted for 7 percent of the older population.
  • Projections indicate that by 2050 the composition of the older population will be 58 percent non-Hispanic White, 20 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Black, and 9 percent Asian. The older population among all racial and ethnic groups will grow; however, the older Hispanic population is projected to grow the fastest, from under 3 million in 2010 to 17.5 million in 2050, and to be larger than the older Black population. The older Asian population is also projected to experience a large increase. In 2010, over 1 million older Asians lived in the United States; by 2050 this population is projected to be about 7.5 million.

Indicator 3. Marital Status
Marital status can strongly affect one’s emotional and economic well-being. Among other factors, it influences living arrangements and the availability of caregivers for older Americans with an illness or disability.

Popl. Chart3
  • In 2010, older men were much more likely than older women to be married. Over three-quarters of men age 65–74 (78 percent) were married, compared with over one-half (56 percent) of women in the same age group. The proportion married was lower at older ages: 38 percent of women age 75–84 and 18 percent of women age 85 and over were married. For men, the proportion married also was lower at older ages, but not as low as for older women. Even among the oldest old in 2010, the majority (58 percent) of men were married.
  • Widowhood was more common among older women than among older men in 2010. Women age 65 and over were three times as likely as men of the same age to be widowed, 40 percent compared with 13 percent. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of women age 85 and over were widowed, compared with 35 percent of men.
  • Relatively small proportions of older men (9 percent) and women (11 percent) were divorced in 2010. A small proportion (4 percent) of the older population had never married.

All comparisons presented for this indicator are significant at the 0.10 confidence level.

Indicator 4. Educational Attainment
Educational attainment has effects throughout the life course, which in turn plays a role in well-being at older ages. Higher levels of education are usually associated with higher incomes, higher standards of living, and above-average health.

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  • In 1965, 24 percent of the older population had graduated from high school and only 5 percent had at least a Bachelor’s degree. By 2010, 80 percent were high school graduates or more and 23 percent had a Bachelor’s degree or more.
  • In 2010, about 80 percent of older men and 79 percent of older women had at least a high school diploma. Older men attained at least a Bachelor’s degree more often than older women (28 percent compared with 18 percent).
Popl. Chart4b
  • Despite the overall increase in educational attainment among older Americans, substantial educational differences exist among racial and ethnic groups. In 2010, 84 percent of non-Hispanic Whites age 65 and over had completed high school. Older Asians also had a high proportion with at least a high school education (74 percent). In contrast, 65 percent of older Blacks and 47 percent of older Hispanics had completed high school.
  • In 2010, older Asians had the highest proportion with at least a Bachelor’s degree (35 percent). About 24 percent of older non-Hispanic Whites had this level of education. The proportions were 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively, for older Blacks and Hispanics.

All comparisons presented for this indicator are significant at the 0.10 confidence level.

Indicator 5. Living Arrangements
The living arrangements of America’s older population are linked to income, health status, and the availability of caregivers.

Popl. Chart5
  • Older men were more likely to live with their spouse than were older women. In 2010, 72 percent of older men lived with their spouse, while less than half (42 percent) of older women did. In contrast, older women were twice as likely as older men to live alone (37 percent and 19 percent, respectively).
  • Living arrangements of older people differed by race and Hispanic origin. Older Black, Asian, and Hispanic women were more likely than non-Hispanic White women to live with relatives other than a spouse. For example, in 2010, 33 percent of older Asian women, 35 percent of older Black women, and 36 percent of older Hispanic women, lived with other relatives, compared with only 13 percent of older non-Hispanic White women. The percentages of Asian, Black and Hispanic women (33 percent, 35 percent and 36 percent, respectively) were not statistically different.
  • Older non-Hispanic White women and Black women were more likely than women of other races to live alone (39 percent each, compared with about 21 percent for older Asian women and 23 percent for older Hispanic women). The percentages of non-Hispanic White and Black women (39 percent each) living alone were not statistically different. Also, the percentages of older Asian and older Hispanic women (21 percent and 23 percent, respectively) living alone were not statistically different.
  • Older Black men lived alone more than twice as often as older Asian men (28 percent compared with 12 percent). Older Black men also lived alone more often than older non-Hispanic White men (19 percent). The percentages of older Asian and older Hispanic men living alone (12 percent and 15 percent, respectively) were not statistically different.
  • Older Hispanic men were more likely (17 percent) than non-Hispanic White men (4 percent) to live with relatives other than a spouse. The percentages of Black and Asian men living with relatives other than a spouse were between those for Hispanic men and non-Hispanic White men, at 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

All comparisons presented for this indicator are significant at the 0.10 confidence level.

Indicator 6. Older Veterans
Veteran status of America’s older population is associated with higher median family income, lower percentage of uninsured or coverage by Medicaid, higher percentage of functional limitations in activities of daily living or instrumental activities of daily living, greater likelihood of having any disability, and less likelihood of rating their general health status as good or better.4 The large increase in the oldest segment of the veteran population will continue to have significant ramifications on the demand for health care services, particularly in the area of long-term care.5

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  • According to Census 2000, there were 9.7 million veterans age 65 and over in the United States and Puerto Rico. Two out of three men age 65 and over were veterans.
  • More than 95 percent of veterans age 65 and over are male. As World War II veterans continue to die and Vietnam veterans continue to age, the number of male veterans age 65 and over will gradually decline from 9.4 million in 2000 to a projected 8.4 million in 2020.
  • The increase in the proportion of men age 85 and over who are veterans is striking. The number of men age 85 and over who are veterans increased from 400,000 in 2000 to almost 1.3 million in 2010. The proportion of men age 85 and over who are veterans increased from 33 percent in 2000 to 68 percent in 2010.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the number of female veterans age 85 and over increased from about 30,000 to 97,000 but is projected to decrease to 60,000 by 2020.

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