43 Profile of Older Americans

Population Growth

Older adults are among the fastest growing age groups, and the first “baby boomers” (adults born between 1946 and 1964) turned 65 in 2011.A Profile of Older Americans: 2010, http://www.aoa.gov/aoaroot/aging_statistics/Profile/2010/3.aspx[/footnote]

The older population (65+) numbered 40.4 million in 2010, an increase of 5.4 million or 15.3% since 2000. The number of Americans aged 45–64—who will reach 65 over the next two decades—increased by 31% during this decade.

  • Over one in every eight, or 13.1%, of the population is an older American.
  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 18.8 years (20.0 years for females and 17.3 years for males).
  • Older women outnumber older men at 23.0 million older women to 17.5 million older men.

The population 65 and over has increased from 35 million in 2000 to 40 million in 2010 (a 15% increase) and is projected to increase to 55 million in 2020 (a 36% increase for that decade). The 85+ population is projected to increase from 5.5 million in 2010 and then to 6.6 million in 2020 (19%) for that decade.

Think for Yourself

How will the upcoming increases in the percentage of older adults impact health and health services? Why does it matter?


The median income of older persons in 2010 was $25,704 for males and $15,072 for females. Median money income (after adjusting for inflation) of all households headed by older people fell 1.5% (not statistically significant) from 2009 to 2010. Households containing families headed by persons 65+ reported a median income in 2010 of $45,763. The major sources of income as reported by older persons in 2009 were Social Security (reported by 87% of older persons), income from assets (reported by 53%), private pensions (reported by 28%), government employee pensions (reported by 14%), and earnings (reported by 26%). Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 35% of beneficiaries in 2009 (22% of married couples and 43% of non-married beneficiaries).


Almost 3.5 million elderly persons (9.0%) were below the poverty level in 2010. This poverty rate is not statistically different from the poverty rate in 2009 (8.9%). During 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau also released a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) which takes into account regional variations in the livings costs, non-cash benefits received, and non-discretionary expenditures but does not replace the official poverty measure. The SPM shows a poverty level for older persons of 15.9%, an increase of over 75% over the official rate of 9.0% mainly due to medical out-of-pocket expenses. About 11% (3.7 million) of older Medicare enrollees received personal care from a paid or unpaid source in 1999.

Minority Groups Over Age 65

In 2010, 20.0% of persons 65+ were minorities—8.4% were African-Americans. Persons of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race) represented 6.9% of the older population. About 3.5% were Asian or Pacific Islander, and less than 1% were American Indian or Native Alaskan. In addition, 0.8% of persons 65+ identified themselves as being of two or more races. Minority populations have increased from 5.7 million in 2000 (16.3% of the elderly population) to 8.1 million in 2010 (20% of the elderly) and are projected to increase to 13.1 million in 2020 (24% of the elderly).

  • Older men were much more likely to be married than older women: 72% of men vs. 42% of women (Figure 2). 40% older women in 2010 were widows.
  • About 29% (11.3 million) of non-institutionalized older persons live alone (8.1 million women, 3.2 million men).
  • Almost half of older women (47%) age 75+ live alone.
  • About 485,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.

Learning Activity

Use the BenefitsCheckUp tool to determine what benefit programs you might be eligible for if you were over age 65 right now.

  • Complete the form as though you were born before 1945. Make estimates to answer the questions.
  • Ask someone you know who is over the age of 65 to complete the form.
  • Which of these benefits do you think will still be available for older adults in 2020 or 2030?

BenefitsCheckUp quickly finds federal, state, and private benefit programs available to help you save money on health care, food assistance, prescriptions, utilities, and more.

Show Sources


Population Growth

Source: Healthy People, http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=31


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