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Dramatic changes in US aging highlighted in new census, NIH report

The face of aging in the United States is changing dramatically -- and rapidly, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report, commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Today's older Americans are very different from their predecessors, living longer, having lower rates of disability, achieving higher levels of education and less often living in poverty. And the baby boomers, the first of whom celebrated their 60th birthdays in 2006, promise to redefine further what it means to grow older in America.

The report, 65+ in the United States: 2005, was prepared for NIA, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to provide a picture of the health and socioeconomic status of the aging population at a critical time in the maturing of the United States. It highlights striking shifts in aging on a population scale and also describes changes at the local and even family level, examining, for example, important changes in family structure as a result of divorce.

"The collection, analysis, and reporting of reliable data are critical to informing policy as the nation moves ahead to address the challenges and opportunities of an aging population," says NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "This report tells us that we have made a lot of progress in improving the health and well-being of older Americans, but there is much left to do."

Among the trends:

The United States population aged 65 and over is expected to double in size within the next 25 years. By 2030, almost 1 out of every 5 Americans -- some 72 million people -- will be 65 years or older. The age group 85 and older is now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

The health of older Americans is improving. Still, many are disabled and suffer from chronic conditions. The proportion with a disability fell significantly from 26.2 percent in 1982 to 19.7 percent in 1999. But 14 million peop
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Contact: Linda Joy
ljoy@mail.nih.gov
301-496-1752
NIH/National Institute on Aging
9-Mar-2006


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