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A Profile of Older Americans: 2003

The Older Population

The older population--persons 65 years or older--numbered 35.6 million in 2002 (the most recent year for which data are available). They represented 12.3% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans. The number of older Americans increased by 3.3 million or 10.2% since 1992, compared to an increase of 13.5% for the under-65 population. However, the number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 38% during this period.

In 2002, there were 20.8 million older women and 14.8 million older men, or a sex ratio of 141 women for every 100 men. The female to male sex ratio increases with age, ranging from 116 for the 65-69 age group to a high of 230 for persons 85 and over.

Since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65+ has tripled (from 4.1% in 1900 to 12.3% in 2002), and the number has increased eleven times (from 3.1 million to 35.6 million). The older population itself is getting older. In 2002, the 65-74 age group (18.3 million) was eight times larger than in 1900, but the 75-84 group (12.7 million) was more than 16 times larger and the 85+ group (4.6 million) was almost 38 times larger.

In 2001, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 18.1 years (19.4 years for females and 16.4 years for males).

A child born in 2001 could expect to live 77.2 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 past two decades have also seen reduced death rates for the population aged 65-84, especially for men – by 29.0% for men aged 65-74 and by 22.5% for men aged 75-84. Life expectancy at age 65 increased by only 2.5 years between 1900 and 1960, but has increased by 3.8 years from 1960 to 2001.

Over 2.0 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2002. In the same year, about 1.8 million persons 65 or older died. Census estimates showed an annual net increase of approximately 249,000.

There were 50,364 persons aged 100 or more in 2002 (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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