Older Women: Living Longer, Living Alone

(November 2000) Three quarters of older American men live in a family setting, while only half of older American women do. In 1999, 9.8 million people ages 65 and older lived alone, 77 percent of whom were women. The percentage of older people living alone increases with age. In 1999, about 15 percent of men and 31 percent of women ages 65 to 74 lived alone, but among those 75 and older, 20 percent of men and 51 percent of women lived alone. The percentage of women ages 75 and older living alone has increased by 10 percentage points since 1970.

The percentage of older people residing in institutions has been declining in recent years. According to the National Nursing Home Survey, the percentage of people ages 85 and older residing in nursing homes declined from 22 percent in 1985 to 19 percent in 1997. Among people ages 75 to 84, the percentage in nursing homes declined from 6 percent in 1985 to 5 percent in 1997. This decline may reflect the decline in disability rates among the older population, reported by several sources, and the increase in the availability of home health services over this period. Though the percentage of older people in nursing homes declined, the absolute number of older people in nursing homes increased, from 1.3 million in 1985 to 1.5 million in 1997, because the total number of older people in the population has increased.


Most of the data, charts, and graphs on the older population are based on tabulations from the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey (CPS).

Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics