(January 2016) The Population Reference Bureau report, "Aging in the United States," examines recent trends and disparities among adults ages 65 and older, and how baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 will reshape America's older population. In 2016, baby boomers will be between ages 52 and 70. Below are key findings from the report.
- The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent.
- The older population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Between 2014 and 2060 the share of the older population that is non-Hispanic white is projected to drop by 24 percentage points, from 78.3 percent to 54.6 percent.
- The changing racial/ethnic composition of the population under age 18, relative to those ages 65 and older, has created a “diversity gap” between generations.
- Older adults are working longer. By 2014, 23 percent of men and about 15 percent of women ages 65 and older were in the labor force, and these levels are projected to rise further by 2022, to 27 percent for men and 20 percent for women.
- Many parts of the country—especially counties in the rural Midwest—are “aging in place” because disproportionate shares of young people have moved elsewhere.
- Education levels are increasing. Among people ages 65 and older in 1965, only 5 percent had completed a bachelor’s degree or more. By 2014, this share had risen to 25 percent.
- Average U.S. life expectancy increased from 68 years in 1950 to 79 years in 2013, in large part due to the reduction in mortality at older ages.
- The gender gap in life expectancy is narrowing. In 1990, there was a seven-year gap in life expectancy between men and women. By 2013, this gap had narrowed to less than five years (76.4 years versus 81.2 years).
- The poverty rate for Americans ages 65 and older has dropped sharply during the past 50 years, from nearly 30 percent in 1966 to 10 percent today.
- Obesity rates among older adults have been increasing, standing at about 40 percent of 65-to-74-year-olds in 2009-2012.
- There are wide economic disparities across different population subgroups. Among adults ages 65 and older, 18 percent of Latinos and 19 percent of African Americans lived in poverty in 2014—more than twice the rate among older non-Hispanic whites (8 percent).
- More older adults are divorced compared with previous generations. The share of divorced women ages 65 and older increased from 3 percent in 1980 to 13 percent in 2015, and for men from 4 percent to 11 percent during the same period.
- More than one-fourth (27 percent) of women ages 65 to 74 lived alone in 2014, and this share jumps to 42 percent among women ages 75 to 84, and to 56 percent among women ages 85 and older.
- The aging of the baby boom generation could fuel a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care, to about 2.3 million in 2030 from 1.3 million in 2010.
- Demand for elder care will also be fueled by a steep rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, which could nearly triple by 2050 to 14 million, from 5 million in 2013.
- The large share of elderly also means that Social Security and Medicare expenditures will increase from a combined 8 percent of gross domestic product today to 12 percent by 2050.
- Policymakers can also improve the outlook for the future by reducing current gaps in education, employment, and earnings among younger workers.
Mark Mather is associate vice president of U.S. Programs at the Population Reference Bureau.