By J. Manuel Cordova, M. D.
Later Years: “The Great Golden Time“
Two persons in ten in the United States are now age 65 or older, around 60 million people.
Demographic data: USA now has neither the highest nor the lowest proportion of older people in the world. Europe has a larger PROPORTION OF THE ELDERLY, while Japan has a slightly lower proportion. Developing countries have far lower proportions; for example in Nigeria, the figure is only 2 percent. A little more than a century ago, the proportion was 2 percent in the United States.
In industrialized societies, we can expect the increase in the proportion of elderly to continue.
In 2011, the postwar “baby boomers” will start turning 65, and for each of the 20 years that follow, we can expect these elderly population to increase by about one million people annually (USA).
By the year 2000, the number of Americans older than age 85 had tripled. At this time, we have more than 100,000 people 100 years of age or older.
In other words, you could say that it is “IN” to be 65 or older. If you are a member of a growing group, you will have more company than ever before in history. Society also shows some signs of gearing up to accommodate the greater numbers of elderly. The US Census Bureau creates several alternative mortality scenarios when developing population projections, and according to their middle-mortality assumption, there will be 82 million persons age 65 and older in the United States by 2050.
In that year one of five Americans will be 65 or older. Baby boomers will be in this age group. It is projected that 19 million persons, representing nearly a quarter of all persons aged 65 years and older, will be 85 years and older. There will be more than four times as many people in the 85 year and older age group than in 1998, and almost 200 times as many as there were in 1900.
Thus, the number of older people is rising dramatically in proportion to the total population and the older population itself is getting older, with increasing proportions in the 85 years and older subgroup.
Population aging is taking place throughout the world; with this over- view we can predict that by 2030, Europe will have 15.5 per cent of those 65 or more, Latin America/Caribbean 5.5 to 11.6 per cent, Asia 6 to 12 per cent.
The country with the oldest population is Italy, where 18.1 percent of the population was 65 years and older in 2000. Japan has the fourth oldest population with 17.7 percent aged 65 and older.
Life expectancy at birth in the USA was only 47.3 years in 1900, and rose to 68.2 years by 1950, affected to a large extent by improvements in infant and child care. Life expectancy continued to rise through the second half of the twentieth century, driven mainly by an increase in survival care in middle and old age.