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Interesting Facts and Figures For People Over 65

Published: December 3, 2021

Where Did I Find These Facts and Figures For People Over 65?

 I ran across a report entitled Older Americans: Key Indicators of Well Being. It came out last fall, so it’s possible you’re a step ahead of me and have already seen it. But a lot of this information is new to me. The report acknowledges that it does not include the effects of COVID-19. But it does contain the most current data available.

Here are a dozen highlights you might find interesting:

There are roughly 52 million people age 65 and over living in the United States today, accounting for 16% of the population. That compares to just 35 million people in 2000 — and a projected 73 million, or 21% of the population, ten years from now.

Less than half of women 65 and over are married. The married rate for women is 46%, compared to 71% of men who are married. Some 32% of women are widowed, and 11% of men.

About 30% of people 65 and over have a four-year college degree, and 86% have a high school degree.

Older people have a lower rate of poverty than any other age group — just 9% of people age 65 – 74, and 14% for people age 85 and over. Overall, the poverty rate of people 65 and over has decreased from 15% in 1974 to 10% today.

Social Security benefits for women have changed dramatically, from spouse-only or widow-only benefits to earned worker benefits. Today some 80% of female beneficiaries get earned worker benefits.

We’re getting wealthier. Since 1989 the median net worth, adjusted for inflation, of households headed by people age 65 and over has increased by 60% — from $158,225 to $253,800.

On average, for people age 65 and over, some 33% of their income went to housing, 14% to transportation, 13% to health care, 13% to food. For those who are older, age 75 and over, the figures are 36% for housing, 16% for health care, 13% for food and 12% for transportation.

Life expectancy has increased for everyone — men and women, white, black, Hispanic and Asian. In just the last decade alone, life expectancy for men at age 65 has increased from 17.2 years to 18.1 years. For women the increase is 19.9 years to 20.7 years. (But Covid has no doubt changed these numbers, at least temporarily.)

Death rates for heart disease, cancer and diabetes have gone down. Death rates for Alzheimer’s disease and injuries have gone up. (About 7.5% of people 65 and over not living in nursing homes are reported to have dementia.)

Facts and Figures For People Over 65

About 22% of people age 65 and over report some kind of disability — vision, hearing, mobility, cognition.

Only 14% of people 65 and over participated in physical activity that meets recommended guidelines. The obesity rate has increased from 22% in 1990 to 40% today.

Some 13% of people age 65 to 74 admit to limiting their driving to daytime hours because of their vision or health. (Okay, I admit it! Well . . . I will drive at night; but I prefer to drive in daylight, especially on unfamiliar roads.) Meanwhile, only 41% of people 85 and over limit their driving to the daytime. (IMHO that figure should be higher . . . I remember my dad driving when he was in his late 80s, it was a scary ride!) 

If you want to know more about the lifestyles of older Americans, you can check out the report yourself at Older Americans 2020: Key Indicators of Well Being. It’s only, um, 184 pages long.

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About The Author
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits spent 40 years in New York book and magazine publishing before retiring to Bucks County, PA, in 2017. He now volunteers in the school system, produces the baby boomer blog Sightings Over Sixty . . . and is just starting to chase after grandchildren.
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