This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 23, 2014.
A new government report about American seniors reveals that many things about the population are growing, from their prevalence, to their waistlines and medical conditions, to their presence in the workplace and at the voting booth.
The research, which includes data from the 2010 census and other national population surveys, reveals the health and economic status of Americans 65 and older. It also makes projections for 2030 and beyond, when all members of the Baby Boomer generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 – will have passed their 65th birthdays.
The numbers show today’s seniors are smoking and drinking less than previous generations, but their obesity rates – like those of the general U.S. population – are rising. Chronic diseases, like diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis, are more common than they were a decade ago, and the cost of long-term care for seniors is rising.
But the report shows medical conditions aren’t keeping seniors out of the workforce. They were the only U.S. age group that had increased employment numbers during the recession, and the only group whose home ownership rates didn’t fall. They were also the only segment of the population that had a higher voter turnout in 2012 than in 2008.
Here are the numbers:
The number of Americans age 65 or older in 2010. That number is expected to double, reaching 83.7 million – one-fifth of the entire U.S. population – by 2050.
The number of Californians age 65 and older in 2010 – more than any other state. California is one of only 11 states to have more than a million people in this age group.
By 2030, the report projects there will be less than three working-age Americans – those 20 to 64 years old – to support every person over 65. In 2010, there were 4.5 working-age people for every senior.
The percentage of people 65 and older who had at least one chronic medical condition, such as high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, lung disease or diabetes. The report notes the prevalence of these conditions increased from 1998 to 2008.
The average yearly cost of a private room in a nursing home in 2010. That’s $229 per day. Less than one-fifth of older people have the personal financial resources to live in a nursing home for more than three years and almost two-thirds cannot afford even one year.