American’s older generation is changing the face of our country. Filled with unique experiences, from participation in foreign wars to life overseas, these older individuals give color, depth, and texture to our country.
Here are ten incredible facts to help you learn more about the parents, grandparents, and friends we all love.
They’re gentle, kind, unique, and diverse. As it turns out, though, they’re also fascinating! Here are ten unique facts to help you understand what a big impact seniors make in the U.S. and beyond.
Today, there are about 46 million people who are ages 65 and older. By 2060, though, that number is projected to rise from about 15% of the total U.S. population to nearly 24% of the population. This is due, in large part, to the high concentration of baby boomers in the country, and that they’re all aging on the same timeline.
While some people may not realize it, demographic shifts are everywhere in America’s older generation. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of older adults who claim “non-Hispanic white” as their ethnic and racial group is going to drop by 24 percentage points between 2014 and 2060. This will take the share of the population to 54.6%, down from 78.3%. This demonstrates a rising level of ethnic and racial diversity in the older generation.
At one point in history, it was rare for older adults to have pursued a college education. Today, though, 25% of adults ages 65 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree. Compare this to the 5% of older adults who possessed one back in 1965, and you’ll see just how far the older generation has come.
In 1950, the live expectancy of older adults was 68 years. By 2013, it had climbed to 79 years of age. This is due in large part to a significant reduction in mortality in senior citizens, afforded by better in-home care, more advanced medical techniques, and improvements like assisted living facilities and family caregivers.
When you compare today’s seniors to older generations, the divorce rate is much higher. In recent years, the number of divorced women who are 65 or older is up from 3% in 1980 to 13% back in 2015. During that same period, the divorce rates for men grew from 4% to 11%. While this may seem inconsequential, many of these divorced seniors live alone, which can contribute to higher rates of dementia, cognitive decline, and depression.
Today, the healthcare industry is facing a crisis. As America’s older generation ages rapidly, the rates of Alzheimer’s are increasing, and experts expect the number of seniors living with Alzheimer’s to triple in coming years, reaching 14 million in 2050. This places an increased strain on the healthcare industry and contributes to the massive demand for in-home aides and caregivers who are trained to deal with such conditions.
As the baby boomers age, more of them are winding up in nursing homes throughout the country. In fact, experts are expecting a 75% increase in the number of seniors seeking nursing home care, from roughly 1.3 million in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2030. This, too, has contributed to an overwhelming shortage of in-home care nurses and other trained specialists who can see to the older generation during the final years of their lives.
In 1966, the poverty rate for people ages 65 and older was a whopping 30%. This led to all sorts of strains on the health care system, families, and seniors themselves. Today, that number has dropped, and is only 10%, a fraction of its former state. Decreasing poverty rates in older Americans have a great deal to do with increased job availability, more family support, and wealth accumulation that was unknown to previous generations.
In 2014, 23% of men and 15% of women who were 65 or older were still working. Unfortunately, this number is projected to rise in coming years, jumping to 27% of men and 20% of women by 2022. This is largely influenced by the fact that few adults are saving for retirement, and that many people have lost the employer-sponsored pensions and retirement plans they were counting on to get them through their older years.
While living alone is directly related to higher mortality rates, and an increase in chronic conditions among America’s older generation, many seniors are living alone. In 2014, roughly ¼ of women lived by themselves at ages 65 or older, while a massive 56% of women ages 85 and older were living alone.
While the reasons for this solitude are many, it’s due in large part to the fact that many older adults have no family in their area, have outlived or separated from their spouses, and have few friends or other individuals to check on them. While in-home care can be helpful for these clients, living alone is still difficult on seniors for a variety of reasons.
Aging can be difficult, and many seniors are trying to combat things like depression and solitude by improving their quality of life. Here are five proactive steps that can help:
Depression affects roughly 6 million seniors throughout the U.S. When left untreated, it can dovetail into other chronic conditions, or lead to suicidal thoughts or actions and anxiety. Luckily, simple treatments for depression, like talk therapy, medication, and increased time with friends and family can improve health and wellbeing overall.
Seniors who feel needed and useful have lower rates of depression, cognitive decline, and anxiety than those who feel purposeless. Luckily, finding a purpose during the golden years can be as simple as volunteering at a local food bank or reading to kids at the library.
Staying active, both mentally and physically, is essential to happiness and wellbeing as seniors age. By focusing on getting some exercise each day and learning new things as the years progress, seniors can keep their bodies and their minds strong.
Remaining connected to a community and a group of family and friends is one of the most critical steps seniors can take to safeguarding their health and wellbeing. When seniors fall out of touch with family and friends, the risk of depression and isolation increases. With this in mind, keeping weekly coffee dates or phone check-ins is a smart and healthful option.
Seniors who see the doctor on a regular basis are better equipped to catch new or worsening health conditions than their doctor-avoiding counterparts. This prevents physical decline and helps seniors stay healthier, longer.
Our senior citizens are some of the things many Americans are most proud of. Wise, experienced, and influential for younger generations, these grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, and mentors make the world a better place, and focusing on their health and wellbeing are two of the biggest things we can do to show our gratitude.