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Appendix: Selected Highlights from 65+ in the United States: 2005

The older U.S. population is growing rapidly as baby boomers age and more people are living longer:

  • The first baby boomers will turn 65 in 2011; and people age 65 and over are projected to represent 20 percent of the total U.S. population in 2030, compared with 12 percent in 2003.
  • Average life expectancy at birth in 2000 was 76.9 years; females could expect to live an average of 5.4 years longer than men.
  • About 80 percent of centenarians are women.
  • The United States is relatively young compared with other developed countries. Despite its aging, the United States has a lower proportion of adults age 65 and older than most countries in western Europe.

Illustration: 65+ populationIn general, older people in the United States are healthier than in the past, with lower rates of disability. Still, a significant proportion suffers from health problems and chronic disease, and causes of death have not changed dramatically:

  • Death rates for heart disease are declining among people 65 years and older; however, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death within this population, followed by cancer and stroke.
  • The rates of disability and functional limitation among the older population have declined substantially over the past two decades; about 1-in-5 older Americans report having chronic disability.
  • Data comparing people ages 65 to 74 in 1988-94 and 1999-2000 show a startling rise in the percentage of people considered obese — in men, the proportion grew from about 24 to 33 percent and in women from about 27 percent to 39 percent.

The older population is growing more in some geographic regions than in others, and it is concentrated in metropolitan areas:

  • Between 1990 and 2000, the largest proportionate increases in the older population were mainly in the West, particularly in the Mountain States, and in the South, particularly in the South Atlantic states.
  • In 2000, nine states – California, Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey — had more than 1 million residents age 65 and over.
  • In 2000, almost three-fourths of Hispanics age 65 and up lived in California, Texas, Florida and New York; and nearly two-thirds of older Asians lived in the West.
  • Three-out-of-4 older people lived in metropolitan areas in 2000.

There is a strong correlation between education and health. Older adults are becoming more educated, and this continuing trend could have a positive effect on the health of older people in the future:

  • By 2030, more than one-fourth of the older population is expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree; and the percentage of older women with a bachelor’s degree will likely double, from 13.4 percent in 2003 to 27.8 percent in 2030.
  • Substantial educational differences by race and Hispanic origin exist, despite the overall rise in educational attainment within the older population. In 2003, 76 percent of older non-Hispanic whites, 70 percent of older Asians, 52 percent of older blacks and 36 percent of older Hispanics had completed high school.
  • The gender gap in completion of a college education will narrow in the future because younger men and women are earning college degrees at roughly the same rate.

Older adults in the United States are far less likely to live in poverty today than in decades past, although poverty rates vary by group:

  • Between 1959 and 2003, the proportion of people age 65 and over who lived below the poverty line decreased from 35 percent to 10 percent.
  • In 2003, older women were more likely than older men to be living in poverty (13 percent compared with 7 percent).
  • Older non-Hispanic whites (8 percent) were less likely than older blacks (24 percent) and older Hispanics (20 percent) to be living in poverty in 2003.

People age 65 and older are less likely to be in the labor force today than in decades past, but many continue to work:

  • Labor force participation rates of men age 65 and older fell dramatically over the past several decades, from 46 percent in 1950 to 19 percent in 2003. Rates for older women did not change statistically during that time period.
  • By 2020, people age 55 and over are expected to make up 20.3 percent of the labor force, up from 15.1 percent in 2003.
  • As employed men and women get older, their likelihood of working part time increases. In 2003, about half of employed men age 70 and over and almost two-thirds of employed women aged 70 and over worked part time.
  • Social Security continues to provide the largest share of income for many older Americans.

The social characteristics of older people vary greatly, often by age within the post-65 group.

  • Three-quarters of the 10.5 million older Americans living alone in 2003 were women. The proportion varies greatly by age, with 29.6 percent ages 65 to 74, 47.6 percent ages 75 to 84, and 57 percent age 85 and older living alone.
  • In 2000, 4.5 percent of people ages 75 to 84 and 18.2 percent of those 85 and older lived in nursing homes. About 3-in-4 nursing-home residents are women.
  • The majority of men majority of men ages 65 to 84 were veterans, reflecting the high proportion of men who served in the military during World War II.
  • People age 65 and older consistently vote in higher proportions than other age groups. In 2000, 67.6 percent of the older population said they voted, compared with 49.8 percent of those ages 25-44; of all the votes cast that year, some 20 percent were by people age 65 and older.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | PIO@census.gov | Last Revised: June 14, 2013