Old Age in America, By the Numbers
The population of older Americans is growing faster than ever and living longer than ever, but not as long as in much of Europe and elsewhere in the developed world, according to “Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being,” a report compiled by 15 federal agencies.
The full report, with tables detailing senior demographics, economics, health status, health risks and health care, is available at agingstats.gov. It contains a number of surprises, and raises a number of questions, for those interested in how Americans are aging.
Americans who live to age 65 can now expect to survive on average 18.5 more years, four years more than in 1960, according to the report. Of those who survive to age 85, women have an average 6.8 years to live, and men, 5.7 years. But life expectancy is even longer in most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cuba and Costa Rica.
In 2008, an estimated 39 million people in the United States were 65 or older — just over 13 percent of the population. By 2030, when all surviving baby boomers will be over 65, the report projects there will be 72 million seniors, about 20 percent of the population. (Seniors already make up 20 percent of the population in Germany and 21.5 percent in Japan.)
The 85-and-over United States population, the fastest-growing cohort in the country, is projected to rise from 5.8 million today to 19 million in 2050.
Living longer does not come cheaply. After adjustment for inflation, annual health care costs for the average senior increased from $9,224 in 1992 to $15,081 in 2006, the report says.
Heart disease remains the leading killer of people over 65, but now patients die of the disease at only half the rate (1,297 deaths per 100,000 people) they did in 1981. Cancer, strokes, lower respiratory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease were the other top killers. The reported rate of death from Alzheimer’s rose almost thirtyfold, from 6 per 100,000 in 1981 to 176.9 per 100,000 in 2006. Officials said the increase mostly reflected improvements in diagnosis and reporting in the 1980s.