Elder Organ Donation
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Statistical Notes on the U.S. 65-Plus Population

The United States Bureau of the Census is a formidable agency. It's primary responsibility is, as we know, to conduct the constitutionally-mandated nose count of the population every ten years ending in a zero but it collects much more information than that.

The Census Bureau is a gold mine of data that local and federal agencies, private and public corporations, non-profits and others rely on to make informed business, economic and governmental decisions and a lot of it is updated every year.

It is easy for an amateur like me to get lost for hours poring over the thousands of charts, PDF reports, graphs and other information.

One thing all those numbers can do is help define a subset of the population. Like us. Old folks. For example, in 2012 there were 43,145,356 people age 65 and older – about 5.5 million more women than men.

In the same year, there were 5,887,330 people age 85 and older, about 2 million more women than men.

If longevity is your goal, it has always been more advantageous to be a woman.

As we often discuss here, elders differ dramatically and not only by age so it's misleading to lump together everyone 65 and older. (Even worse is the common 50- or 55-plus and older designation. An average 55-year-old is not much like an average 85-year-old at all.)

Sometimes the Census Bureau divides elders into several ten-year categories after 55 or 65, but not always. Even so, that 65-plus grouping can give us a rough picture of our age group.

So today, here are a few Census Bureau statistics about elders in America. They are, of course, raw numbers that don't answer dozens of questions that come to mind. Still, it's worth a look.

(All numbers apply to people age 65 and older unless otherwise noted. The links go to the Census Bureau documents containing that information - many are PDFs.)

In the 2010 census, 53,364 people were 100 or older compared to 32,194 in 1980.

In 2012, there were 4.3 million full-time, year-round workers age 65 and older.

Median Income
In 2012, the median income for 65-plus households was $33,848.

Median Net Worth
In 2011, the median net worth of people 65 and older was $170,516. Most frequently, the majority of this number is tied up in home equity.

In 2012, 3.9 million were living below the poverty line, a .3 percent increase over 2011.

Poverty Without Social Security
In 2012, if there were no Social Security, a majority of elders, 54.7 percent or 23.7 million would be living below the poverty line. (Keep that in mind next time you hear that the president or Congress members want to cut Social Security.)

In 2013, 82.6 percent of people 65-plus had completed high school. A subset of that group – a total of 25.3 percent – had earned a bachelor's degree or higher.

In 2013, 58 percent of people 65 and older were married. Another 26 percent were widowed.

In 2011, 61 percent of 65-plus elders used the internet from home.

In the 2012 election, 71.9 percent of elder voted.

In 2012, the Census Bureau estimated that 9.6 million living people 65 and older were veterans of the armed services.

The Census Bureau website is vast and there are many other kinds of information. One of the best areas is called American Factfinder which has recently improved ease of use greatly.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan E. Swanberg: A Scientific American


Fascinating.I wonder why we all don't vote. And too, I would have thought there would be more vets because of Vietnam.

Thank-you for presenting all of this information. Food for thought...

I think the stats are a bit misleading at least for women. The majority of women over 65 are on their own, only 45% are married, 35% are widowed and the rest are single/divorced. So being coupled after 65 for women at least puts you in the minority.

Widowhood on average is a lot lower than people think as well, it hovers around 60 so the majority of couples have no retirement time together - so much for increasing the retirement age.

Too many people drink the financial-planner Koolaid and think they will be running along the beach hand in hand well into their 80s happily pair-bonded. The reality is quite different.

Thanks Ronni, for sifting through much of the census data and sharing. As an info-geek and former data analyst, I love this stuff. It will be interesting to see how it changes over the next 10-20 years.

All I know it that I am not alone in: 1)Being Widowed 2) over 80 years old and 3) living below the poverty line.

If miserly loves company so does being old, I guess.

Hi Ronni,

It's great to have all of these statistics in one place. Where would we be without Social Security?

I also like the statistic on Internet use. Next time I hear someone complaining about the stereotypical technologically-challenged elder, I'll direct him or her to your website.

Always have to focus especially hard when numbers mentioned, then glad I did. Thanks for this.

Ha Ha! I just checked my comment and find it funny (not) to see what an addition of one letter can do to a word. I obviously meant misery, but my finger added an l making it miserly. Ooops.

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