The Older Population
The older population--persons 65 years or older—numbered 43.1 million in 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available). They represented 13.7% of the U.S. population, about one in every seven Americans. The number of older Americans increased by 7.6 million or 21% since 2002, compared to an increase of 7% for the under-65 population. However, the number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 24% between 2002 and 2012.
In 2012, there were 24.3 million older women and 18.8 million older men, or a sex ratio of 129 women for every 100 men. At age 85 and over, this ratio increases to 200 women for every 100 men.
Since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65+ has more than tripled (from 4.1% in 1900 to 13.7% in 2012), and the number has increased over thirteen times (from 3.1 million to 43.1 million). The older population itself is increasingly older. In 2012, the 65-74 age group (24 million) was more than 10 times larger than in 1900; the 75-84 group (13.3 million) was 17 times larger and the 85+ group (5.9 million) was 48 times larger.
In 2011, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 19.2 years (20.4 years for females and 17.8 years for males). A child born in 2011 could expect to live 78.7 years, about 30 years longer than a child born in 1900. Much of this increase occurred because of reduced death rates for children and young adults. However, the period of 1990-2007 also has seen reduced death rates for the population aged 65-84, especially for men – by 41.6% for men aged 65-74 and by 29.5% for men aged 75-84. Life expectancy at age 65 increased by only 2.5 years between 1900 and 1960, but has increased by 4.2 years from 1960 to 2007. Nonetheless, some research has raised concerns about future increases in life expectancy in the US compared to other high-income countries, primarily due to past smoking and current obesity levels, especially for women age 50 and over.
About 3.6 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2012. Census estimates showed an annual net increase between 2011 and 2012 of 1.8 million in the number of persons 65 and over.
Between 1980 and 2012, the centenarian population experienced a larger percentage increase than did the total population. There were 61,985 persons aged 100 or more in 2012 (0.14% of the total 65+ population). This is a 93% increase from the 1980 figure of 32,194.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates; 2010 Census Special Reports, Centenarians: 2010, C2010SR-03, 2012; and Table 5. Population by Age and Sex for the United States: 1900 to 2000, Part A. Hobbs, Frank and Nicole Stoops, Census 2000 Special Reports, Series CENSR-4, Demographic Trends in the 20th Century. National Center for Health Statistics, Hoyert DL, Xu JQ. Deaths: Preliminary data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol 61 No 6. Hyattsville, MD: 2012. National Research Council, Crimmins EM, Preston SH, Cohen B, editors. Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries. Panel on Understanding Divergent Trends in Longevity in High-Income Countries, 2011.
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