Health Issues and Older Americans: The Stats Show Mixed Reviews

man jogging on beach
The National Institute on Aging recently published an important report tracking trends in older Americans. The report, “Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being,” tracks trends in those older than 65 in categories ranging from health to housing to economics.

Medical advances, improved diet, and the pursuit of a more healthful lifestyle has allowed today’s older Americans to enjoy longer lives and better physical function than did those of prior generations. The report states that in 2010, 40 million people age 65 and over accounted for 13 percent of the total population in the United States. In 2030, the number and proportion of older Americans is expected to grow substantially — to 72 million and nearly 20 percent of the population respectively. The report revealed major negative factors affecting certain segments of this population including the increased burden of housing costs and rising obesity.

Some highlights of the report:

Obesity
Older Americans, like their younger counterparts, are gaining weight. Obesity is undeniably a major cause of preventable disease and premature death. Sadly, the percentage of obese individuals 65 and over continues to escalate. In 1988–1994, 22 percent of people age 65 and over were obese. Fast forward to 2009-2010 when 38 percent of the elderly were found to be obese, 44 percent of people age 65-74, and 29 percent of those age 75 and older. Please note that the number of obese people falls in the latter years of life as a consequence of the excessive mortality among the overweight. You will see this recurrent theme in the following statistics.

  • In 2009–2010, 45 percent of women age 65–74 and 30 percent of women age 75 and over were obese. This is an increase from 1988–1994, when 27 percent of women age 65–74 and 19 percent of women age 75 and over were obese.
  • Older men followed similar trends: 24 percent of men age 65–74 and 13 percent of men age 75 and over were obese in 1988–1994, compared with 43 percent of men age 65–74 and 27 percent of men age 75 and over in 2009–2010.

Working later in life
As the overall population ages, a growing percentage of older people are working later into their golden years. In 1963, 17 percent of women aged 65-69 were in the labor force; in 2011, that number had increased to 27 percent. For women 70 and older, 6 percent worked in 1963, increasing to 8 percent in 2011.

Older people are becoming more active

  • The percentage of older people meeting the Federal physical activity guidelines has increased over time. In 1998, about 6 percent of people age 65 and over met the guidelines, compared with 11 percent in 2010.
  • In 2010, about 11 percent of people age 65 and over reported participating in leisure-time aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Unfortunately the percentage of older people meeting the physical activity guidelines decreases with age, ranging from 14 percent among people age 65–74 to 4 percent among people age 85 and over.
  • Men age 65 and over were more likely than women in the same age group to meet the physical activity guidelines (14 percent and 8 percent, respectively, in 2010).

Smoking numbers on the decline
A key negative factor impacting cardiovascular health, smoking, has been on the decline for decades. The percentage of older Americans who are “current cigarette smokers” fell significantly between 1965 and 2010.

  • Most of the decrease in the number of smokers has been among men (from 29 percent in 1965 to 10 percent in 2010). Through the same period, the percentage of women who smoked cigarettes has remained relatively constant (10 percent in 1965 and 9 percent in 2010).
  • In 2010, the percentage of older Americans who were “current smokers” was similar for white and black Americans.
  • A large percentage of both men and women age 65 and over were former smokers. In 2010, about 53 percent of older men previously smoked cigarettes, while 29 percent of women age 65 and over were former smokers.

 

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One Comment

  1. suzette September 21, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    What’s more, Pew surveys suggest that people 65 and older were the most likely to be bracing for a long recovery. That helps explain why so many older workers have put off retirement.

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