Older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being

Released today, the report, “Older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being” takes a close look at older adults in the United States, as they live longer and face new economic, health care, and residential living challenges.

Older Americans are in better economic shape now than they were four decades ago. In 1974, the proportion of older people with income below the poverty threshold was 15 percent; in 2014, the percentage fell to 10 percent. In 2014, people in the high income group—those with incomes 400 percent or more of their poverty threshold—made up the largest share of older people by income category at 36 percent.
About 1.2 million people age 65 and over were residents of nursing homes in 2014. In the same year, nearly 780,000 of those age 65 and over lived in residential care communities such as assisted living facilities. In both of these settings, people age 85 and over represented the largest share by age group among residents.

Today’s report is the seventh prepared by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Sixteen Federal agencies collaborate to monitor and report national-level statistics on the well-being of older Americans, making it easy for the public to understand key trends that affect the health and well-being of older Americans.

The 179-page report presents 41 indicators of well-being into six broad groups – population, economics, health status, health risks and behavior, health care, and environment. This year’s report also includes new indicators on social security beneficiaries, dementia, long-term care providers, and transportation. There is also a special feature on informal caregiving. “Informal caregivers” are family members or friends who are not paid and who assist older adults who have functional limitations with everyday tasks. Informal caregivers include spouses, children, other relatives, and friends.

Highlights of the Older Americans 2016 special feature include:

  • Although spouses represented 21 percent of informal caregivers, they provided more than 31 percent of the total hours of care.
  • Almost half of all caregivers assisted with self-care activities. A slightly larger proportion of women caregivers (52 percent) than male caregivers (46 percent) provided such care.
  • The vast majority of caregivers assisted with transportation, and there were no gender differences in providing this type of help.
  • About 86 percent reported that informal caregiving gives them satisfaction that the care recipient is well cared for.
  •  Caregivers also reported negative aspects of caregiving; almost half said they have more things than they can handle or don’t have time for themselves. Less than one in five caregivers reported that these negative impacts were a substantial problem.

Other highlights of Older Americans 2016 include:

  • Population – 46 million people age 65 and over lived in the United States in 2014, accounting for 15 percent of the total population. In 2030, the number and proportion of older Americans is expected to grow to 74 million, representing nearly 21 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • Economics – Overall between 1983 and 2013, the median net worth, in 2013 dollars (including the value of retirement investment accounts), of households headed by people age 65 and over rose from $116,500 to $210,500.
  • Health status – Many Americans enjoy longer lives, though with some functional limitations. Twenty-two percent of the population age 65 and over say they have at least one limitation in vision, hearing, mobility, communication, cognition, or self-care.
  • Health risks and behavior – A quality diet with healthy eating is important at all ages. Americans age 75 and over, met the dietary recommendations for whole fruits. Americans from the age groups 65 and over, 65-74, and 75 and over met the dietary recommendations for total protein foods.
  • Health care – In 2014, approximately 4.3 million veterans age 65 and over were enrolled with the Veterans Health Administration. Of those enrollees, 35 percent had been disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated by active military service.
  • Environment – Air quality is improving for seniors. The percentage of people age 65 and over living in counties that experienced poor air quality for any standard, decreased from 66 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2014; about 11 percent lived in counties with poor air quality for ozone, compared with 51 percent in 2000.

Older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being and supporting data tables are available online at http://www.agingstats.gov and in limited quantities in print.

The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics was established in 1986 to improve the quality and utility of Federal data on aging and to inform the public, policy makers, and researchers about these important trends. The 16 agencies represented in the Forum are listed at http://www.agingstats.gov.

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