Census Foresees an Older, and Wiser, America

Bloomberg News
Friday, March 10, 2006

The U.S. population age 65 and older will double in 25 years, and the new elders will be healthier, wealthier and more highly educated than previous generations, redefining what it means to be older in America, a Census Bureau report issued yesterday shows.

By 2030, about 72 million Americans, or one in every five, will be 65 or older, the report found.

"The aging of our society will have profound consequences on our future, and, in fact, it's a not-very-distant future," Census Bureau Director C. Louis Kincannon said in a teleconference with reporters. The first of the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are turning 60 this year at the rate of about 8,000 a day, Kincannon said.

While much of the data is not new, the study puts more data in one place than ever before with the goal of benefiting the public and policymakers, said officials of the Census Bureau and the National Institute on Aging, which commissioned the report.

The boomers "will enter retirement as the most educated generation in American history," Kincannon said.

"Education is a particularly powerful factor in both life expectancy and health, and we're not quite sure why," Richard Suzman, associate director for behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, said in the teleconference. Better-educated people may have more money to pay for health care, and they may know more about a healthy lifestyle, he said.

By 2030, more than one-fourth of the older generation is likely to have an undergraduate degree, the report said.

Overall better health of Americans will be reflected in the coming older generation, the Census Bureau report said. The proportion of people with a disability fell from 26.2 percent in 1982 to 19.7 percent in 1999, the report said.

Older people already are wealthier than in the past, the report said. The proportion of people 65 and older living in poverty fell from 35 percent in 1959 to 10 percent in 2003, the study found.

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