Population aging - Occurs when the median age of a country or region rises. This happens because of rising life expectancy or declining birth rates. Excepting 18 countries termed 'demographic outliers' by the UN this process is taking place in every country and region across the globe. In the entirety of recorded human history, the world has never seen as aged a population as currently exists globally. The UN predicts the rate of population aging in the 21st century will exceed that in the 20th. Countries vary significantly in terms of the degree, and the pace, of these changes, and the UN expects populations that began aging later to have less time to adapt to the many implications of these changes.
The U.S. population 65 and older is now the largest in terms of size and percent of the population, compared with any previous census, according to a new 2010 Census brief released today from the U.S. Census Bureau on the nation's older population. The group grew at a faster rate than the total population between 2000 and 2010.
According to the 2010 Census, there were 40.3 million people 65 and older on April 1, 2010, increasing by 5.3 million since the 2000 Census when this population numbered 35.0 million. The percentage of the population 65 and older also increased during the previous decade. In 2010, the older population represented 13.0 percent of the total population, an increase from 12.4 percent in 2000.
65 and Older Population Grew Faster than Total Population
Between 2000 and 2010, the population 65 and older grew 15.1 percent, while the total U.S. population grew 9.7 percent. The opposite happened between 1990 and 2000 when the growth of the older population was slower than the growth of the total population, with growth rates of 12.0 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively.
Population Size and Growth Varied Among the Older Age Groups
Examining the growth of 10-year age groups within the older population shows that 85- to 94-year-olds experienced the fastest growth between 2000 and 2010. This group grew by 29.9 percent, increasing from 3.9 million to 5.1 million.
Among five-year age groups in the older population, 65- to 69-year-olds grew the fastest. This age group grew by 30.4 percent, rising from 9.5 million to 12.4 million. The 65- to 69-year-old group is expected to grow more rapidly over the next decade as the first baby boomers start turning 65 in 2011.
The only older population age group to decline between 2000 and 2010 was the 75- to 79-year-old age group. This group decreased by 1.3 percent from 7.4 million to 7.3 million. The changes in this group mainly reflect the relatively low number of births during the early 1930s as fewer numbers of people entered these ages between 2000 and 2010.
Population of Older Men Increased at a More Rapid Rate than Older Women
While women continue to outnumber men in the older ages, men have continued to close the gap over the decade by increasing at a faster rate than women. The largest growth rate for a 10-year age group within the older population was for men 85 to 94 years old (46.5 percent). Women in this age group also increased but to a smaller degree (22.9 percent). When five-year age groups are compared, men 90 to 94 years old had the fastest growth rate (50.3 percent) while women increased the fastest in the 65- to 69-year-old age group (28.2 percent).
The number of men per 100 women in the older ages has increased over time as differences in male and female mortality continued to narrow and more males entered into the older population. For most single years of age above age 65, the ratio of men to women was higher in 2010 than in 2000 and 1990.
In the 2010 Census, there were approximately twice as many women as men at age 89 (361,309 compared with 176,689, respectively). This doubling point occurred about four years older than it did in 2000 and six years older than it did in 1990, illustrating the narrowing gap in mortality between men and women at the older ages.
South had Largest Number of People in Older Ages, While Northeast had Largest Percentage
Comparisons across the nation's four regions in 2010 show that the South contained the greatest number of people 65 and older at 14.9 million, followed by the Midwest at 9.0 million, and the West at 8.5 million. The Northeast had the smallest number of people 65 and older at 7.8 million but also had the highest percentage of people 65 and older at 14.1 percent. Following the Northeast was the Midwest at 13.5 percent and the South at 13.0 percent. The West had the smallest percentage of people 65 and older at 11.9 percent.
West had the Fastest Growth in the Populations 65 and Over and 85 and Over
When compared with the 2000 Census, all regions grew in both the 65 and older and 85 and older populations. The region with the fastest growth in the population 65 and older was the West (23.5 percent), increasing from 6.9 million in 2000 to 8.5 million in 2010. The region with the fastest growth in the population 85 and older was also the West (42.8 percent), increasing from 806,000 in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2010.
Rhode Island was the Only State Whose 65 and Older Population Decreased
Among the 50 states, Rhode Island was the only one to decrease in the number of people 65 and older, declining from 152,402 in 2000 to 151,881 in 2010. The District of Columbia's 65-and-older population also decreased from 69,898 in 2000 to 68,809 in 2010.
Compared with other states, Florida had the greatest share of the population that was 65 and older in both 2000 and 2010 (17.6 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively). West Virginia (16.0 percent), Maine (15.9 percent), Pennsylvania (15.4 percent) and Iowa (14.9 percent) followed in 2010.
The state with the lowest share of the population 65 and older was Alaska in both 2000 and 2010 (5.7 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively). Alaska is also notable as the state with the largest growth rate for the population 65 and older. The state's older population grew from 35,699 in 2000 to 54,938 in 2010, resulting in a percent increase of 53.9 percent.
Population 85 and Older Increased in All States
Between 2000 and 2010, all states experienced increases in the number of people who were 85 and older. However, the magnitude of growth varied among states.
Alaska had the largest percent change between 2000 and 2010 (78.9 percent), increasing from 2,634 in 2000 to 4,711 in 2010. Mississippi had the smallest growth rate (3.4 percent) and increased from 42,891 in 2000 to 44,359 in 2010. Alaska was also the state with the lowest number and percentage of the population 85 and older when compared with other states.
The Census Bureau recently released 90+ in the United States: 2006-2008, a report providing an overview of this age group and a comparative analysis of selected demographic and socioeconomic differences between the 90 and older group and their younger counterparts within the older population. The statistics, which go down to the state level, come primarily from the American Community Survey.