7 Surprising Facts About Americans 65 and Over

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • The trends among senior citizens continue to evolve as times change and the general population ages. More people are on their way to their golden years, and most of them are enjoying the company of their grandchildren as they grow older. More older Americans are staying in the work force longer, and overall, older people are living longer than they ever have before. But the trends aren’t all good—many older people live below the poverty line, and falls account for the majority of injury-related deaths among senior citizens. Find out what other surprises the older generation holds.

  • 1
    More Americans will soon be age 65 or older than ever before.
    Group of older female Caucasian friends taking a selfie at restaurant together

    There are approximately 50 million people ages 65 and older living in the United States today, and that number will increase by nearly 20 million within the next 10 years—and nearly double by 2060. That’s because this age is the heart of the baby boomer generation, and as boomers reach their senior years, the older population will surge. Currently, the 65-plus population makes up about 15% of total U.S. residents, but that will rise to nearly a quarter of the population within the next four decades.

  • 2
    Many senior citizens struggle with poverty and hunger.

    Because older people often live on a limited fixed income, many live at or below the poverty line. In fact, nearly 10% of Americans age 65 and older struggle with poverty, and millions of senior citizens must choose between buying food or medical care. With the expansion of Social Security, the number of older people living in poverty has drastically dropped over the past 50 years, when the rate was almost 30%. Without income from Social Security, the poverty level among the 65-plus population would triple.

  • 3
    Americans 65 and older are staying in the work force longer.
    Seniors in business meeting

    Due in part to the recession a decade ago (late 2000s to early 2010s) as well as the increased age requirements for Social Security benefits, more older people are keeping their jobs until later in life to boost retirement savings. Another factor is the 65 and older population is living longer and healthy enough to keep working later into their senior years. There’s no rule that says you have to stop working at 65, even if you are financially secure! However, nearly half of those older workers are on the job only part time. Some leave the work force and re-enter it later because of financial concerns.

  • 4
    More than 80% of Americans ages 65 and older are grandparents.
    Man with granddaughter

    In a survey of American adults, of the more than 80% of respondents 65 and older who say they have grandchildren, more than 60% have at least four grandchildren. Millions of those grandparents are living with their grandchildren, and many are also primary caregivers to their grandchildren, due to the increasing trends of longer life expectancy as well as single parenthood. However, grandparents who are primary caregivers tend to be younger than 65.

  • 5
    Older Americans are living longer, but not as long as people in other high-income countries.
    smiling senior man using exericse bike

    At age 65, Americans can expect to live about 15 more years, on average, compared to seniors in decades past. In 1950, Americans at age 65 could only expect to live an average of about three more years. Those life expectancies depend on race and gender, with women typically outliving men, and white people typically living longer than other races. But because of the high rates of obesity and smoking among Americans, the United States ranks near the bottom of life expectancy among the 37 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which seeks to stimulate economic progress and world trade.

  • 6
    Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in older Americans.
    Fallen senior woman

    It’s common knowledge that older people are more prone to taking a tumble, but it’s probably even more common than you thought: More than 25% of Americans 65 and older fall every year, and an older person goes to the emergency room every 15 seconds due to injuries from a fall. Fatalities from falling, often due to traumatic brain injury, occur three times every hour in the older population. If you reach age 85 without ever being diagnosed with cancer, you are more likely to die from trauma. This reinforces the need for safety for elders.

  • 7
    Most Americans 65 and older are married.
    senior couple embracing and smiling

    The reasons behind why older people are married or unmarried are varied. About a quarter of older Americans are single because they have been widowed. Although the percentage of married seniors still exceeds single or divorced seniors, the demographics will likely change with increasing numbers of baby boomers reaching age 65. When this population was coming of age in the 1960s, they started delaying marriage. Also, the divorce rate has been rising dramatically the past 50 years, especially divorces between seniors. There are also gender gaps, with more married men than women.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 20
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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