Americans Are Living Longer
The average life expectancy in America today is higher than in any other period in history. More specifically, data from a United Nations report shows that the number of people 65 years and older rose from 8% to 12% of the total population between 1950 and 2000. What’s more, this figure will rise to 20% by 2050 and is likely to continue rising steadily thereafter. This is largely due to significant improvements in healthcare services, investment in medical research, and universal health coverage.
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An In-depth Look at Life Expectancy in the United States
Figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that babies born in the United States in 1900 had a life expectancy of 50 years. In comparison, Americans born in 2012 have a life expectancy of 78.8 years. In terms of gender, women generally live longer than men, with one in every ten girls born in 2012 expected to live for more than 100 years. On the other hand, only one in every 20 boys born in the same year will live past 100 years. In general, American women have a life expectancy of 81.2 years, whereas American men have a life expectancy of 76.4 years. This translates to life expectancy difference of 4.8 years in favor of women, which has largely remained the same since 2011. In addition, women 65 years and older today have a higher life expectancy—86.6 years—than the average life expectancy for all women—81.2 years. Men 65 years and older today have an average life expectancy of 84.3 years. Life expectancy outcomes get even better among younger men and women according to the CDC’s data. For instance, one in 20 women who are 40 today will live to celebrate their 100th birthday. For men in the same age demographic (40 years), one in 40 can expect to live to up to 100 years.
These figures show that Americans across all age groups will live much longer than their peers 50 or 100 years ago. In particular, women who turned 65 years in 2015 had a one-in-three chance of celebrating their 90th birthdays. This is a significant improvement from half a century ago when the average 65-year-old female had a one-in-four chance of seeing her 90th birthday.
The Elderly Now Versus the Elderly Of Yesteryears
Seniors today are quite different from the seniors of yesteryears. To start with, up to 65.1% of American households with an elderly member 65 years or older has a computer. At the same time, 58.3% of such households use the Internet regularly. This is particularly important because it means seniors today have considerably more tech savvy that their peers of yesteryears lacked. Tech-savvy people tend to live longer due to expanded communicating and researching options.
Compared to the previous generations, the elderly today are more educated. To be precise, 83.6% of seniors 65 years and older have completed high school or higher education programs. In addition, 26.3% of seniors in the same age bracket have earned a bachelor’s degree or a higher form of education. It is worth noting that the percentage of seniors completing high school and earning higher education qualifications has improved dramatically since 1950. In fact, the number of people 65 years and older completing high school in the United States quadrupled from 17% to 71.5% between 1950 and 2003. Moreover, the percentage of seniors aged over 65 with a bachelor’s degree or higher education qualifications increased from 3.4% to 17.4% between 1950 and 2003.
Besides being better educated, seniors today are better off financially compared to the previous generations. In 1970, for example, the percentage of Americans 65 years and older living below the poverty line was approximately 25%. By 2005, this percentage had dropped to just 10%, which at the time was 2.6 percentage points lower than the national poverty rate. On the income front, the elderly had a median income of $18,208 in 2008. Today, the median income among Americans 65 years and older has risen to $25,757.
The retirement savings and benefits landscape in the United States has also changed significantly over time. In 1978, for instance, traditional savings accounted for 67% of tax-preferred savings. By 2014, traditional savings only accounted for 34% of these savings showing that the composition of tax-—preferred retirement savings has changed substantially. Meanwhile, the percentage of retirement savings held in defined contribution plans such as IRAs and 401(k) plans has jumped from 20% to 58%.
In 1960, the ratio of Americans making Social Security payments to those receiving SS benefits stood at nine to one. Today, the ratio of Social Security contributors to beneficiaries has dropped by half to 4.3 to 1.
The Future of The Elderly Worldwide and in America
Projections from the United Nations show that the global population will increase by about one billion by 2025. Out of these, about 300 million people will be 65 years and older thanks to rising life expectancy levels worldwide. In the United States, a fifth of the population will be 65 years and older by 2050. In comparison, Americans 65 years or older constituted 8% and 12% of the total population in 1950 and 2000 respectively. Population projections show that the number of Americans 85 years and older will rise briskly over the next few decades to account for 4% of the total population by 2050. This has necessitated an increase in the number of workers providing services to the elderly and people with disabilities from 621,546 in 2007 to 911,311 in 2012.
Businesses that offer these services have benefited greatly with their revenues jumping from $25.3 billion in 2007 to $34.4 billion in 2012. These businesses have a bright future with one-half of seniors expected to pay-out-of-pocket expenses for long-term services and support (LTSS). In 2013, American seniors paid $59 billion for LTSS while private insurers paid $25 billion. Currently, Americans spend more than $300 billion on LTSS with private insurers covering only 7% of LTSS costs in 2009. About 7.6 million Americans had long-term care private insurance in 2008.
Americans are today enjoying higher life expectancy due to better healthcare services and introduction of universal health coverage programs. In addition, American seniors are today better educated, better off financially, and are more tech savvy when compared to the previous generations.