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A Profile of Older Americans: 2008

The Older Population

The older population--persons 65 years or older--numbered 37.9 million in 2007 (the most recent year for which data are available). They represented 12.6% of the U.S. population, over one in every eight Americans. The number of older Americans increased by 3.8 million or 11.2% since 1997, compared to an increase of 12.9% 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 2007, there were 21.9 million older women and 16.0 million older men, or a sex ratio of 137 women for every 100 men. The female to male sex ratio increases with age, ranging from 114 for the 65-69 age group to a high of 210 for persons 85 and over.

Since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65+ has tripled (from 4.1% in 1900 to 12.6% in 2007), and the number has increased twelve times (from 3.1 million to 37.9 million). The older population itself is getting older. In 2007, the 65-74 age group (19.4 million) was over 8.8 times larger than in 1900, but the 75-84 group (13.0 million) was 17 times larger and the 85+ group (5.5 million) was 45 times larger.

In 2006, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 19.0 years (20.3 years for females and 17.4 years for males). A child born in 2006 could expect to live 78.1 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 1985-2005 also has seen reduced death rates for the population aged 65-84, especially for men – by 32.3% for men aged 65-74 and by 23.5% for men aged 75-84. Life expectancy at age 65 increased by only 2.5 years between 1900 and 1960, but has increased by 4.7 years from 1960 to 2006.

About 2.4 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2007. In the same year, about 1.8 million persons 65 or older died. Census estimates showed an annual net increase of 634,893 in the number of persons 65 and over.

There were 80,771 persons aged 100 or more in 2007 (0.21% of the total 65+ population). This is a 117% 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/Trends in Health and Aging Data Warehouse).

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AoA - Statistics - A Profile of Older Americans 2008 - Future Growth