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Report highlights older Americans’ progress, obstacles
Tuesday September 18, 2012


Today’s older Americans enjoy longer lives and better physical function than did previous generations, according to a comprehensive federal report on aging.

For some, however, an increased burden in housing costs and rising obesity may compromise these gains, according to "Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being," which tracks trends at regular intervals to see how seniors are faring as the U.S. population grows older.

In 2010, 40 million people ages 65 and older accounted for 13% of the total population in the United States. In 2030, the number and proportion of older Americans is expected to grow significantly — to 72 million, representing nearly 20% of the population, according to the report by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

"Older Americans 2012," the sixth report prepared by the Forum since 2000, categorizes 37 key indicators of seniors’ quality of life into five broad areas — population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and healthcare. This year’s report also includes a special feature on the end of life.

Report highlights — all applying to Americans ages 65 and older unless otherwise specified — include:

Health status

Life expectancy was lower than that of many other industrialized nations. A 65-year-old woman could expect to live 3.7 years fewer than a 65-year old woman in Japan as of 2009, for example. The gap among men compared with Japan was 1.3 years.

Death rates for heart disease and stroke declined by slightly more than 50% since 1981, while death rates for chronic lower respiratory disease increased by 57%.

More women than men reported having arthritis (56% vs. 45%), while more men than women reported having heart disease (37% vs. 26%).

During 2008-10, 76% of those surveyed rated their health as good, very good or excellent. Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to report good health than were non-Hispanic blacks or Hispanics.

Health risks and behaviors

About 11% of those surveyed reported participating in leisure-time aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities that met 2008 federal guidelines for physical activity.

The obesity rate in the age group was 38%, up from 22% in 1988-94. The trend has leveled off for older women, however, with no statistically significant change in obesity between 1999-2000 and 2009-10.

The proportion of people in the age group who experienced poor air quality for any air pollutant decreased from 64% in 2000 to 36% in 2010.


After adjustment for inflation, healthcare costs for older Americans increased from $9,850 in 1992 to $15,709 in 2008, with no significant change between 2006 and 2008.

Between 1977 and 2009, the percentage of household income allocated to out-of-pocket spending for healthcare services increased among those in the poor/near-poor income category from 12% to 22%.

Enrollment in health maintenance organizations and other health plans under the Medicare Advantage program grew from 16% in 2005 to 28% in 2009.

End of life

Use of hospice in the last month of life increased from 19% of decedents in 1999 to 43% in 2009. Use of ICU/CCU services grew from 22% to 27% during that span.

Neoplasms accounted for 32% of hospice stays in 2009, down from 53% in 1999. The next most common primary diagnoses in 2009 were diseases of the circulatory system (19%).

The proportion of older Americans who died in the hospital declined from 49% in 1989 to 32% in 2009. The proportion who died at home increased from 15% to 24% during that span.

A link to the PDF of the full report is available at

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Tuesday September 18, 2012
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