A Profile of Older Americans: 2010


• The older population (65+) numbered 39.6 million in 2009, an increase of 4.3 million or 12.5% since 1999• The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 26% during this decade.

• Over one in every eight, or 12.9%, of the population is an older American.

• Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 18.6 years (19.9 years for females and 17.2 years for males).

• Older women outnumber older men at 22.7 million older women to 16.8 million older men.

• In 2009, 19.9% of persons 65+ were minorities–8.3% were African Americans.** Persons of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race)
represented 7.0% of the older population. About 3.4% were Asian orPacific Islander,** and less than 1% were American Indian or Native Alaskan.** In addition, 0.6% of persons 65+ identified themselves as being of two or more races.

• Older men were much more likely to be married than older women–72% of men vs. 42% of women (Figure 2). 42% older women in 2009 were widows.

• About 30% (11.3 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.3 million women, 3.0 million men).

• Half of older women (49%) age 75+ live alone.

• About 475,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.

• The population 65 and over will increase from 35 million in 2000 to 40 million in 2010 (a 15% increase) and then to 55 million in 2020 (a 36% increase for that decade).

• The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2000 to 5.7 million in 2010 (a 36% increase) and then to 6.6 million in 2020 (a 15% increase for that decade).

• Minority populations are projected to increase from 5.7 million in 2000 (16.3% of the elderly population) to 8.0 million in 2010 (20.1% of the elderly) and then to 12.9 million in 2020 (23.6% of the elderly).

• The median income of older persons in 2009 was $25,877 for males and $15,282 for females. Median money income (after adjusting for inflation) of all households headed by older people rose 5.8% (statistically significant) from 2008 to 2009. Households containing families headed by persons 65+ reported a median income in 2009 of $43,702.

• The major sources of income as reported by older persons in 2008 were Social Security (reported by 87% of older persons), income from assets (reported by 54%), private pensions (reported by 28%), government employee pensions (reported by 14%), and earnings (reported by 25%).

• Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 34% of beneficiaries in 2008 (21% of married couples and 43% of non-married beneficiaries).

• Almost 3.4 million elderly persons (8.9%) were below the poverty level in 2009. This poverty rate is statistically different from the poverty rate in 2008 (9.7%).

• About 11% (3.7 million) of older Medicare enrollees received personal care from a paid or unpaid source in 1999.

*Principal sources of data for the Profile are the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for 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.

The Older Population

The older population–persons 65 years or older–numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, over one in every eight Americans. The number of older Americans increased by 4.3 million or 12.5% since 1999, compared to an increase of 12.3% for the under-65 population. However, the number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 26% during this period In 2009, there were 22.7 million older women and 16.8 million older men, or a sex ratio of 135 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 216 for persons 85 and over.

Since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65+ has more than tripled (from 4.1% in 1900 to 12.9% in 2009), and the number has increased almost thirteen times (from 3.1 million to 39.6 million). The older population itself is increasingly older. In 2008, the 65-74 age group (20.8 million) was 9.5 times larger than in 1900. In contrast, the 75-84 group (13.1 million) was 17 times larger and the 85+ group (5.6 million) was 46 times larger.

In 2007, persons reaching age 65 had an average life expectancy of an additional 18.6 years (19.9 years for females and 17.2 years for males). A child born in 2007 could expect to live 77.9 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. About 2.6 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2009. In the same year, about 1.8 million persons 65 or older died. Census estimates showed an annual net increase of 770,699 in the number of persons 65 and over.

There were 64,024 persons aged 100 or more in 2009 (0.2% of the total 65+ population).*** This is a 72% increase from the 1990 figure of 37,306.

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