Older Americans Month Unleash the Power of Age

smiling elderly woman

Every year since 1963, May has been a month to appreciate and celebrate the vitality and aspirations of older adults and their contributions to our communities. The theme for Older Americans Month 2013, Unleash the Power of Age, has never been more fitting. Older Americans are productive, active, and influential members of society, sharing essential talents, wisdom, and life experience with their families, friends, and neighbors.

In the United States, there has been a notable increase in the number of Americans over the age of sixty-five (65) and this trend is expected to continue. Research data indicates that there has been an increase of 4.3 million person increase in the number of Americans over the age of sixty-five (65) from 1999-2009. In recognition of the contributions that older Americans have made and continue to make in their families and communities, on April 29th, 2011, May was declared Older Americans Month by President Barack Obama. Let’s take a look at a profile of older Americans created by the United States Administration on Aging (AoA) from the most recent research data. The Administration on Aging’s profile on older Americans includes but is not limited to a breakdown of their: gender, average life expectancy, marital status, and income.

A Profile of Older Americans: 2010

Highlights*
• The older population (65+) numbered 39.6 million in 2009, an increase of 4.3 million or 12.5% since 1999.
• The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 26% during this decade.
• Over one in every eight, or 12.9%, of the population is an older American.
• Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 18.6 years (19.9 years for females and 17.2 years for males).
• Older women outnumber older men at 22.7 million older women to 16.8 million older men.
• In 2009, 19.9% of persons 65+ were minorities–8.3% were African-Americans.** Persons of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race) represented 7.0% of the older population. About 3.4% were Asian or Pacific Islander,** and less than 1% were American Indian or Native Alaskan.** In addition, 0.6% of persons 65+ identified themselves as being of two or more races.
• Older men were much more likely to be married than older women–72% of men vs. 42% of women (Figure 2). 42% older women in 2009 were widows.
• About 30% (11.3 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.3 million women, 3.0 million men).
• Half of older women (49%) age 75+ live alone.
• About 475,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.
• The population 65 and over will increase from 35 million in 2000 to 40 million in 2010 (a 15% increase) and then to 55 million in 2020 (a 36% increase for that decade).
• The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2000 to 5.7 million in 2010 (a 36% increase) and then to 6.6 million in 2020 (a 15% increase for that decade).
• Minority populations are projected to increase from 5.7 million in 2000 (16.3% of the elderly population) to 8.0 million in 2010 (20.1% of the elderly) and then to 12.9 million in 2020 (23.6% of the elderly).
• The median income of older persons in 2009 was $25,877 for males and $15,282 for females. Median money income (after adjusting for inflation) of all households headed by older people rose 5.8% (statistically significant) from 2008 to 2009. Households containing families headed by persons 65+ reported a median income in 2009 of $43,702.
• The major sources of income as reported by older persons in 2008 were Social Security (reported by 87% of older persons), income from assets (reported by 54%), private pensions (reported by 28%), government employee pensions (reported by 14%), and earnings (reported by 25%).
• Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 34% of beneficiaries in 2008 (21% of married couples and 43% of non-married beneficiaries).
• Almost 3.4 million elderly persons (8.9%) were below the poverty level in 2009. This poverty rate is statistically different from the poverty rate in 2008 (9.7%).
• About 11% (3.7 million) of older Medicare enrollees received personal care from a paid or unpaid source in 1999.

Sources: United States Administration on Aging which obtained its data for the profile from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the Administration on Aging, the data included in the profile incorporates the latest data available but not all items are updated on an annual basis.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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