Donald Trump and Social Security
Expectations Versus Reality About Old Age

Facts and Figures About the U.S. Elder Population

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.

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.

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.

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%.

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.


Of all the interesting statistics above, I said a--- "say what?" --to myself when I got to Utah.

I am curious about Utah--- Your statistics stated--

The state of Alaska is home to the lowest percentage of people 65 and older, 9.4%,
followed by Utah with 10%.

Hmmm---Utah-- Mormons--big families--- Whoa -- I just had a thought. Women make up most of the old ,old, right? So maybe having lots of children goes with dying young? Sometimes my brain goes a little kittywampus--- sorry --

Maybe there's still time for me to write the great American novel. ;-)

I was struck by the relatively high levels of education: "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." I have the feeling that today's youth are not doing nearly as well, education-wise, but that's only a feeling.

The part that made me gasp was the average amount of prescriptions taken yearly-14 to 18! I know so many who either don't know what the medicine is for and/or don't take them as directed, and sometimes don't bother taking them at all. It's amazing that some reach the ripe old age of 80.

Very unfair that discrimination exists against older people who want to work, and yet politicians are hot to trot to raise the age of full social security. That happens in Canada as well, but we are fortunate to have acquired a new prime minister (Justin Trudeau) who is proposing to change the draconian move to raise retirement age (read social security benefits) threatened by the previous conservative government.

I'm having trouble wrapping my head around some o\f these numbers, but as far as AK and UT, the percentages for those states have nothing to do with each other. I'm guessing that AK has a small percentage due to the number of older people who may not want to live in a cold state with too much snow and ice. And UT makes sense that they have a small percentage due to the number of children skewing the numbers there. I was more surprised that Maine is second only to Florida in percentage of older residents. I would have thought it might have been another snowbird state, maybe AZ or TX.

The only thing I would have preferred here would have been for the numbers to have been projected less far out, perhaps 2030 or 2040. I think that's why I'm having trouble wrapping my head around them -- they're just too far out there, and it seems to me that the next 10 to 20 years are more likely to be the really transformative ones.

Fabulous information, thanks! I am relieved to learn that my perception of my life, that I live in simple comfort, is borne out by the statistics re the poverty line in my area. Hee hee, I'm above it!

Darlene, go for it! I'm playing classical piano (which I started at four) more seriously now than I ever have, and have given a handful of recitals (Chopin program) and intend to give more--with even a little Ravel thrown in. Also, I haven't seen very many observations that reflect my own, which is that the computer has vastly improved my prose style.

This post is chock full of interesting information. Gives me lots of food for thought.

Thanks for the stats, Ronni. They made me feel quite healthy for my age, since I only take seven prescription meds. Of course I take a bunch of OTC stuff, things like vitamins, fish oil, low dose aspirin, probiotics, fiber, and such, but I'm not counting those. The statistic I like best is the 72% voting rate of elders. That should guarantee us a lot of political attention, but I'm not sure it does. What's your information on that?

Thanks. All these data will be useful for my articles.

A lot of interesting statistics..something I'll print up for future daughter would say "Why print it? It's there on the net for you anytime you want."

I'll print it up for the same reason that I still buy books, both novels, biographies and my big love..cookbooks!! The recopies may be on the web but I can't make notes in the margins about the changes I'll make the next time I make that particular recipe!

Thanks, again, Ronni.. you're a great resource.

Elle-your neighbor in Beaverton!

Some fascinating facts. It's interested that 1 out of 3 people over age 65 volunteer in one form or other. Good for us! But like Lola, I was taken aback by the stats on drugs. Is it possible that the 0ver 65 population is over drugged by the medical establishment?

I wonder about the drug numbers too. I've begun saying "no" to some of the suggestions and seem to be surviving nicely. I'm positive we are over-vitamined. As my daughter-in-law likes to say "it just causes expensive pee."

The thing about prescriptions is that they're easy. Almost magic! "Take this pill, it will solve this problem." Easy answer for the doctor, easy relief for the patient.

Trouble is, once you reach a certain age, problems start accumulating. Big ones, little ones, problems you're just going to have to live with, problems nobody knows any cause for, problems that might be fixed by a lifestyle change... and a lot of problems for which the drug companies have devised a solution that involves taking a pill every day for the rest of your life.

Get a few of those going, and it becomes harder for even a doctor to tell what's a side effect, what's a drug interaction, and what's a new problem that calls for... a new pill! So, yes, I've made it clear to my doctor I'd like to keep my prescriptions to a minimum. If I can manage without them I want to stop taking them.

How true, Sylvia!

While those pills do relieve some pains and problems, it seems you no longer can ascertain easily whether they're effective for the particular condition. That's a larger problem when alternatives, like diet or exercise, haven't been tried first.

I remember all my women relatives and many others I knew were all on high blood pressure meds (the 70s-90s)- because the test at the doctor's office said that was a problem, so their doctors gave them the pill solution. To find out whether this was true later, they'd have to go off the pills for a couple of months, and that was considered dangerous.

We are taking our lives into our hands as we learn and challenge these concepts. And the physicians.

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