The National Institutes of Health commissioned the U.S. Census Bureau to report the population trends and other national data about people 65 and older. The results are presented in a report entitled, 65+ in the United States: 2010.
The report documents aging as quite varied in terms of how long people live, how well they age, their financial and educational status, their medical and long-term care and housing costs, where they live and with whom, and other factors important for aging and health. Rates of smoking and excessive drinking have declined among older Americans, prevalence of chronic disease has risen, and many older Americans are unprepared to afford the costs of long-term care in a nursing home.
Some good news, and some not so good news.
Aging in America is changing in fundamental ways. The report provides the number of older people and their age, sex, and race; it also tells us about their health, families, communities and future problems with caregiving, vital data to consider as we seek to meet the needs and address concerns of our aging population. The older population today is increasingly diverse, on a number of fronts.
Baby Boomers, take note: A key aspect of the report is the effect that the aging of the baby boom generation — those born between 1946 and 1964 — will have on the U.S. population and on society in general. Baby boomers began to reach age 65 in 2011; between 2010 and 2020, the older generation is projected to grow more rapidly than in any other decade since 1900.
Rates of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have declined among those 65 and older, as mentioned above, but the percentage of overweight and obese people has increased. Between 2003-2006, 72 percent of older men and 67 percent of older women were overweight or obese. Obesity is associated in increased rates of diabetes, arthritis, and impaired mobility, and in some cases with higher death rates.
Research based on NIA’s (National Institute on Aging) Health and Retirement Study suggests that the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and diabetes, increased among older people between 1998 and 2008. For example, in 2008, 41 percent of the older population had three or more chronic conditions, 51 percent had one or two, and only 8 percent had no chronic conditions.
The cost of long-term care varies by care setting. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home was $229 per day or $83,585 per year in 2010. Less than one-fifth of older people have the personal financial resources to live in a nursing home for more than three years and almost two-thirds cannot afford even one year. Medicare provides coverage in a skilled nursing facility to older and disabled patients for short time periods following hospitalization. Medicaid covers long-term care in certified facilities for qualifying low-income seniors. In 2006, Medicaid paid for 43 percent of long-term care.
Baby boomers had far fewer children than their parents. Combined with higher divorce rates and disrupted family structures, this will result in fewer family members to provide long-term care in the future. This will become more serious as people live longer with conditions such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
It is hoped that this report will serve as a useful resource to policymakers, researchers, educators, students and the public at large.
The good news is, if we are aware about possible problems in the coming years, we have a better chance to plan ahead.
[images from bingdotcom]