Dramatic Changes in U.S. Aging


By Sara Miller Llana
| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Census 2006 report: rising well-being
Dramatic Changes in U.S. Aging Highlighted in New Census, NIH Report
Impact of Baby Boomers Anticipated

….Seniors like Dr. Palmore are helping redefine notions of “getting older.” Forgotten by the media, passed over for promotions, and teased by birthday cards, they have long struggled for dignity in a youth-obsessed society.

But increasingly active and independent seniors, and the baby boomers who will follow, are helping to chip away at the ageism that spans Hollywood to Hallmark. Seniors today are healthier, wealthier, and more educated than their predecessors – and their population will double in the next 25 years.

Those are the highlights from a US Census Bureau report released Thursday on Americans 65 and older….

Some experts worry that the affluence of baby boomers is being overstated, hiding distressing situations for subgroups, especially at a time of soaring healthcare costs. While only 8 percent of older whites lived in poverty in 2003, 20 percent of blacks and 24 percent of Hispanics did, according to the new Census report….

Older people who lived alone faced the highest poverty rates. In 2003, among older women living alone, poverty rates were 17 percent for white women and 40 percent for black and Hispanic women.

And even as standards of living improve, few expect old perceptions to dissolve quickly.

Stereotypes remain rampant in the media, says Todd Nelson, a psychology professor specializing in aging at California State University, Stanislaus….

census.gov Press-Release

The face of aging in the United States is changing dramatically — and rapidly, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. 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 social and economic implications of an aging population — and of the baby boom in particular — are likely to be profound for both individuals and society,” says Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon.

The report, 65+ in the United States: 2005 [PDF], was commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, to provide a picture of the health and socioeconomic status of the aging population. It highlights striking shifts in aging on a population scale and also describes changes at the local and even family level, examining, for example, changes in family structure as a result of divorce.”


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