A report from the U.S. Census Bureau, commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health, estimates the number of people over the age of 90 in the US will reach 9 million by 2050. To put the number in perspective, there were 720,000 people 90 or over in 1980, and today there are nearly 2 million. The report also suggests moving the category of oldest old to 90 instead of 85.
NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. stated that :
"With the aging boom it is critical to develop demographic data providing as detailed a picture as possible of our oldest population ... The information on a variety of factors ... income, health status, disabilities and living arrangements ... will be particularly useful to researchers, planners and policymakers."
American Community Survey, a 27-page report, gets into more detail and describes most of those over 90 as white women living in nursing homes with one or more disability. Most of them are high school graduates, and social security provides around half their yearly income; most have health insurance through Medicare or Medicaid.
Richard Suzman, Ph.D., director of NIA's Division of Behavioral and Social Research, which supported the report said :
"Because of increasing numbers of older people and increases in life expectancy at older ages, the oldest segments of the older population are growing the fastest ... A key issue for this population will be whether disability rates can be reduced."
He added that :
"Previous seminal work on demography designated age 85 as the cutoff for what we termed the oldest-old ... With a rapidly growing percentage of the older population projected to be 90 and above in 2050, this report provides data for the consideration of moving that yardstick up to 90. Can 90 be the new 85?"
In summary the report says :
- An average person who has lived to 90 years of age has a life expectancy today of 4.6 more years (versus 3.2 years in 1929-1931), while those who pass the century mark are projected to live another 2.3 years.
- The majority (84.7 percent) of those 90 years and older reported having one or more limitations in physical function. Some 66 percent had difficulty in mobility-related activities, such as walking or climbing stairs.
- An older person's likelihood of living in a nursing home increases sharply with age. About 1 percent of what are called the young elderly (aged 65-69) live in a nursing home. The proportion rises to 3 percent for ages 75-79, 11.2 percent for ages 85-89, 19.8 percent at ages 90-94, 31.0 percent at ages 95-99 and up to 38.2 percent among centenarians.
- Women aged 90 years and older outnumber men nearly 3 to 1; 74.1 percent of the total population aged 90 and older in 2006-2008 were women.
- Whites represent 88.1 percent of the total 90-and-older population. Blacks make up 7.6 percent, Hispanics 4 percent and Asians 2.2 percent.
- The annual median income for people 90 and older was $14,760. Men had a higher income than women: $20,133 vs. $13,580. Social Security represents 47.9 percent of total personal income.
Written by Rupert Shepherd