Back in 1963, President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month. Two years later, Congress passed the Older American's Act to deal with a lack of community services for elders.
The Act established the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) that administers grant programs created by the Older Americans Act and is the primary federal agency concerned with elders in the U.S.
May is still celebrated as (renamed) Older Americans Month and before May gets away from us, we at TGB should make note of it. To give us a general idea of who elders in America are, here are some statistics - gleaned mostly (but not entirely) from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although the numbers will be off if you are not in the U.S., the general sense will likely hold for you if you are in another developed country.
HOW MANY OF US ARE THERE?
• 46.2 million people were 65 and older on 1 July 2014. That's 14.5% the population.
• It is projected that there will be 98.2 million people 65 and older in 2060 – nearly 25% of the population. Of this number, 19.7 of them will be 85 or older.
• It is also projected that in 2060, the number of baby boomers still alive will be 2.4 million, the youngest of whom will be 96 years old.
OUR EDUCATION LEVELS
• 81.9% of people 65 and older have completed high school or some higher education.
• Nearly a quarter of the group, 24.8%, hold a bachelor's or higher degree.
MONEY AND POVERTY
• The median income in 2014 of households people 65 and older was $36,895.
• 97 percent of retirees receive Social Security benefits.
• For 36 percent of people 65 and older, Social Security provides 90 percent or more of their income.
• For 24 percent of those people, Social Security is the sole source of retirement income.
• About 9.5 percent of people 65 and older live in poverty (incomes below the poverty line).
• Without Social Security benefits, more than 40 percent of Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line. The program lifts 14.7 million elderly Americans out of poverty.
• 57.6% of people 65 and older were married in 2015.
• 24.4% of people 65 and older in 2015 were widowed.
• As of the fourth quarter of 2015, 79.3% of householders 65 and older owned their homes.
• The state of Florida has the largest population percentage of people 65 and older: 19.1%. The state of Maine comes in second with 18.3%.
• Chattahoochee County, Georgia has the lowest percentage of elders at 4.1%.
• Sumpter County in Florida has the largest percentage of elders of any county in the U.S., a whopping 52.9%.
• The state of Alaska is home to the lowest percentage of people 65 and older, 9.4%, followed by Utah with 10%.
HOW WE SPEND TIME
• 15 million older persons 65 and older volunteer in some form.
• In 2013, about 536,000 grandparents aged 65 or older had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.
• 21.5% of men 65 and older participated in the labor force in 2014. The rate for women 65 and older was 13.7%.
• It is estimated that in 2014, 9.4 million 65 and older Americans were veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
• 71.9% of the 65-plus population voted in the 2012 presidential election. That was up from 70.3% in 2008.
• Elders are just over 14 percent of the population but consume 40 percent of prescription drugs and 35 percent of over-the-counter drugs.
• On average, individuals 65 to 69 years old take nearly 14 prescriptions per year. Individuals aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I strongly dislike media stories that extol old people for physical achievements that are unexpected in their age range. You know, the ones who climb Mt. Everest at age 80 or water ski barefoot at 75 or bungee jump off bridges.
Those are nothing more than one-off stunts but are widely reported with a whiff of blame aimed at the rest of us who are not behaving like people 50 years younger than ourselves.
Lately, you could get whiplash from the cognitive dissonance caused by reports of 60- and even 50-somethings who can't get hired due to age discrimination versus politicians who want to raise the retirement age to 70 for the full Social Security benefit.
So while we are putting together a description of old people today via statistics, let's also look at a list of accomplishments, important achievements that instead of aping youth, depend on education, experience and understanding that are gained only with age.
• Alexander Graham Bell was 75 when he received a patent for his work on a hydrofoil boat.
• Susan B. Anthony was past 80 when she formed the International Woman Suffrage Alliance.
• At 88, Michelangelo created the architectural plans for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
• At 89, Arthur Rubinstein performed one of his greatest recitals in Carnegie Hall.
• At 90, Marc Chagall became the ﬁrst living artist to be exhibited at the Louvre museum.
• At 94, comedian George Burns performed in Schenectady, New York, 63 years after his ﬁrst performance there.
• Grandma Moses received her last commission as an artist when she was 99.