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A Profile of Older Americans: 2002

The Older Population

The older population--persons 65 years or older--numbered 35.0 million in 2000 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 12.4% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans. The number of older Americans increased by 3.7 million or 12.0% since 1990, compared to an increase of 13.3% for the under-65 population.  However, the number of Americans aged 45-64 – the "babyboomers" who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 34% during this period.

In 2000, there were 20.6 million older women and 14.4 million older men, or a sex ratio of 143 women for every 100 men. The female to male sex ratio increases with age, ranging from 117 for the 65-69 age group to a high of 245 for persons 85 and over.

Since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65+ has more than tripled (4.1% in 1900 to 12.4% in 2000), and the number has increased eleven times (from 3.1 million to 35.0 million).  The older population itself is getting older. In 2000, the 65-74 age group (18.4 million) was eight times larger than in 1900, but the 75-84 group (12.4 million) was 16 times larger and the 85+ group (4.2 million) was 34 times larger.

In 2000, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 17.9 years (19.2 years for females and 16.3 years for males).

A child born in 2000 could expect to live 76.9 years, about 29 years longer than a child born in 1900.  Much of this increase occurred because of reduced death rates for children and young adult.  However, the past two decades have also seen reduced death rates for the population aged 65-84, especially for men – by 19% for men aged 65-74 and by 16% for men aged 75-84.  Life expectancy at age 65 increased by only 2.4 years between 1900 and 1960, but has increased by 3.7 years since 1960.

Over 2.0 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2000 (5,574 per day). In the same year, about 1.8 million persons 65 or older died, resulting in an annual net increase of approximately 238,000 (650 per day).

There were 50,545 persons aged 100 or more in 2000 (0.02% of the total population).  This is a 35% increase from the 1990 figure of 37,306.

(Data for this section were compiled primarily from Internet releases of the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the National Center for Health Statistics).

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