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A Profile of Older Americans: 2003


  • The older population (65+) numbered 35.6 million in 2002, an increase of 3.3 million or 10.2% since 1992.

  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 38% during this decade.

  • About one in every eight, or 12.3 percent, of the population is an older American.

  • Over 2.0 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2002.

  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 18.1 years (19.4 years for females and 16.4 years for males).

  • Older women outnumber older men at 20.8 million older women to 14.8 million older men.

  • Older men were much more likely to be married than older women--73% of men vs. 41% of women (Figure 2). Almost half of all older women in 2002 were widows (46%).

  • About 31 percent (10.5 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (7.9 million women, 2.6 million men).

  • Half of older women age 75+ live alone.

  • Almost 400,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.

  • By the year 2030, the older population will more than double to 71.5 million.

  • The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.6 million in 2002 to 9.6 million in 2030.

  • Members of minority groups are projected to represent 26.4 percent of the older population in 2030, up from 16.4 percent in 2000.

  • The median income of older persons in 2002 was $19,436 for males and $11,406 for females. Median money income of all households headed by older people (after adjusting for inflation) fell by –1.4% from 2001 to 2002; however, this difference was not statistically significant.

  • The Social Security Administration reported that the major sources of income for older people was:
    • Social Security (reported by 91 percent of older persons),
    • Income from assets (reported by 58 percent),
    • Public and private pensions (reported by 40 percent), and
    • Earnings (reported by 22 percent).

  • About 3.6 million older persons lived below the poverty level in 2002. The poverty rate for older persons was 10.4% in 2002 which is not statistically different from the rate in 2001. Another 2.2 million or 6.4% of the elderly were classified as "near-poor" (income between the poverty level and 125% of this level).

*Principal sources of data for the Profile are the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the National Center on Health Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Profile incorporates the latest data available but not all items are updated on an annual basis.

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