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Who Are Americans 65 and Older?

Here are some intriguing findings from a new Census report

The U.S. Census Bureau today released a fascinating, often surprising report on the 40.3 million Americans age 65 and older: 65+ in the United States: 2010.

This group comprises 13 percent of the U.S. population, up from a teeny 4.1 percent in 1990. By 2050, some 20.9 percent of Americans will be 65 and older, according to Census projections.

The report, commissioned by the National Institutes of Health, funded by the National Institute of Aging and written by Lorraine A. West, Samantha Cole, Daniel Goodkind and Wan He, looked at everything about people 65+ from how long they’ll live to how many are using the Internet. Here are eight of the findings that Next Avenue found most intriguing:

How Many More Years a 65-Year-Old Will Live

In 1950, the average 65-year-old had a life expectancy of 13.9 years — which would mean living to roughly age 79. In 2010, the average 65-year-old was expected to live 19.2 years — to roughly age 84.

Then, as now, the average 65-year-old woman had a life expectancy roughly two years longer than the average 65-year-old man.

Today, the average 65-year-old woman can expect to live another 20.3 years (to roughly age 85) and the average 65-year-old man is forecasted to live another 17.7 years (to about age 83).

Top Causes of Death For People 65+

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for Americans 65 and older, overall, followed by cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases (ones that affect the lungs, such as COPD).

Cancer is the leading cause of death for people 65 to 84, while heart disease is for those 85 and older.

The percentage of people 65 and older killed by heart disease dropped dramatically from 2000 (from 33 percent to 26.5 percent), but the percentage who died from cancer has risen slightly (from 21.8 percent to 22.1 percent) and the percentage who died from Alzheimer’s has soared (from 2.7 percent in 2000 to 4.6 percent in 2010).

(MORE: Dealing With an Incurable Disease)

How Many Are Working at 65+

The percentage of men working at age 65 and older dropped precipitously since 1950 (from 45.8 percent to 22.1 percent in 2010), although it’s been rising this century.

By contrast, the percentage of women 65 and older working has increased a bit since 1950 (from 9.7 percent to 13.8 percent in 2010) and has also been on the rise this century. In 2009, about a third of working men age 65 to 69 did so part-time and two-thirds worked full-time. But nearly half of women that age were part-timers and half worked full-time.

(MORE: Busting the Myths of Work in Retirement)


Median Income for People 65+

Americans 65+ have a median annual income of $25,757. But the figure is much higher for married couples ($44,718) and lower for non-married people ($17,261). Median income levels drop markedly from people who in the 65 to 69 age range ($37,200) to those age 70 to 74 ($28,820).

(MORE: Next Avenue Money Scorecard)

How Big a Role Social Security Plays

Social Security represents 36.7 percent of income for Americans 65 and over, overall. But Social Security provides 84.3 percent of income for the poorest fifth of Americans, overall, and 17.3 percent of income for the wealthiest fifth of Americans.

(MORE: Can You Pass a Social Security Test?)

Where Americans 65+ Live

The states with the highest percentage of residents 65 and over are Florida (17.3 percent), followed by West Virginia and Maine. The ones with the lowest: Alaska (7.7 percent), followed by Utah and Texas.

The U.S. county with the highest percentage of residents 65+ is Sumter Country, Fla. — located between Orlando and Ocala and home to The Villages, a mammoth retirement complex.

The older population in the U.S. grew by 15.1 percent overall from 2000 to 2010, but these states had the biggest rises (an increase of 30 percent or more): Alaska; the regional cluster of Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona and Utah and the Georgia and South Carolina cluster.

(MORE: Best and Worst States to Retire)

Marital Status of People 65+

In 2010, a much higher percentage of men 65 and older were married (72 percent) compared with women (42 percent), but a much higher percentage of women were widowed (40 percent) compared with men (13 percent). Also, roughly 9 percent of men 65+ and 11 percent of women were divorced.

The percentage of people 65 and older who are widows and widowers has dropped significantly since 1960, however, when roughly 53 percent of women that age were widows and 19 percent of men were.

(MORE: Why Can’t Love Keep Us Together?)

Percentage Who Use the Internet

Roughly two in five people 65 and older use the Internet (44.8 percent), up from just 14.3 percent in 2000.

Of those 65 and older who use the Internet, 89 percent send or read e-mail; 62 percent read news online; 58 percent make travel arrangements online and 40 percent bank online.

(MORE: Avoid the Perils of Online Banking)

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