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Senior Population Statistics: A Portrait of Aging Americans

14 minute readLast updated November 30, 2022
Written by Melissa Bean

People over the age of 65 make up more than 16% of the U.S. population. This demographic is growing rapidly as life expectancies increase and the baby boomer generation ages. To paint an accurate portrait of seniors in the U.S., it’s important to understand their diverse living situations, medical needs, racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic situations, and more.

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According to our research team’s analysis of the latest available data:

  • 54.1 million adults or 16.3% of the U.S. population are seniors (aged 65 or older).
  • The senior population is expected to rise to 22% by 2040 and 25% by 2060.
  • 69% of senior adults will need long-term care at some point.
  • Senior men are 46% more likely to live with a spouse or partner while senior women are 65% more likely to live alone.
  • 24% of seniors identify as members of racial or ethnic minority populations; white Americans are more than twice as likely to live 65 years or more.

Read on for breakdowns of senior and elderly population statistics.

Seniors and elderly vs. general population

As of 2019, 54.1 million Americans were 65+, according to the Administration for Community Living (ACL). During the last decade, the 65+ population in the U.S. grew by more than a third, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. America’s population will continue to gray with almost a quarter of Americans being 65+ by 2060, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The older adult population in the U.S. continues to grow as noted by the ACL in the following chart:

As of 2022, American society can be broken down into five generations: silent, boomers, Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z. The following table shows demographic information for each generation, according to Pew Research.

Americans who are 65 and older fall into the boomers or silent generations. While all of the silent generation’s members are 65+ currently, all of the boomers will be 65+ by 2030.

As of 2019, there were 23 million living members of the silent generation, according to the World Economic Forum. Additionally, millennials surpassed the boomers as America’s largest generation as of 2019 with 72.1 million millennials to 71.6 million boomers.

Future Projections. Generation X may outnumber the boomers by 2028, as explained by the World Economic Forum. Millennials are projected to peak at 75 million in approximately 2033. By the middle of this century, the boomers will potentially decrease to a population of only 16.2 million.

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Average U.S. life expectancy

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped two years in a row, according to a 2022 study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Urban Institute. As of 2021, life expectancy is 76.47 years. The following table shows the decrease during the pandemic years, as noted in the study.


Sex and gender. As of 2019, there were 30 million women age 65 or older, while there were only 24.1 million men, according to the Administration on Aging’s (AOA) 2020 Profile of Older Americans. That means there are roughly 125 women for every 100 men in this population in the U.S. Women outnumber men even more in the 85+ population with 178 women for every 100 men.

Race and ethnicity. In 2019, people 65+ made up 21% of the non-Hispanic white population in the U. S. while people 65+ only made up 10% of ethnic and racial minority populations, according to the AOA.

The following chart highlights the percentage of those 65+ in each minority group, as noted by the AOA.

Socioeconomic status. While the median income for those 65+ in 2019 was $27,398, men in this age group had a higher median income ($36,921) than women ($21,815), according to a recent report by the AOA. The same report noted that homeowners aged 65+ had a median household income of only $36,200 in 2019.

When looking at households headed by people 65+, the report notes that the median income was $70,254 in 2019. (It is important to note that these households often contain multiple income earners.) More than 81% of households with an older adult as head of household had incomes of $35,000 or more. However, median income may vary greatly across racial and ethnic populations, as noted by the AOA. See the table below for median incomes in households headed by those 65+.

Poverty may be an issue for some older Americans, with one in 10 people 65+ living below the poverty level, as explained by the AOA. Of those 65+, 4.9 million people lived below the poverty line along with another 2.6 million considered “near-poor” in 2019. Older Hispanic women living alone and older African American women living alone experience higher poverty rates.

Marital status. Older men are more likely to be married than their female counterparts. In 2020, 70% of older men were married while only 48% of older women were married, according to the AOA.

Retirement age. The average retirement age for American men is 64.6, while the average retirement age for women is 62.3, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Children and grandchildren. While the two-child family dominates American society today, the average woman would have given birth to more than three children at the end of her childbearing years in the late 1970s, according to Pew Research. The same research shows that family size decreased from 1976 to the mid-1990s, which means older Americans typically have fewer grandchildren than their parents had.

With multi-generational households gaining popularity, approximately 1.1 million older adults (65+) live with at least one grandchild under the age of 18, according to the AOA.

Education. Between 1970 and 2020, the educational level of older adults rose significantly, with those who completed a high school education rising from 28% to 90%, as noted by the AOA. The same report shows that approximately one in three adults aged 65+ have obtained a bachelor’s degree as of 2020.

Living situations and daily life

Living together vs. living alone. A recent report by the AOA indicates the following living situations for older Americans in 2020:

  • 61% lived with a spouse or a partner.
  • 27% lived alone.
  • 1% of people ages 65-74, 2% of people ages 75-84, and 8% of people ages 85+ lived in nursing homes.

When it comes to men and women, there is a significant difference between the living situations of older adults. The following table highlights the living situations of people 65+, as noted by the AOA.

Additionally, older adults may act as family caregivers to a household member. With 6.2 million adults with Alzheimer’s disease, 11 million people function as unpaid caregivers to people with Alzheimer’s according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Transportation options. American society continues to heavily favor driving over other types of transportation, including public transportation options. In 2017, there were 43.6 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis. One in five American drivers will be 65+ by 2030, according to the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles.

However, seniors may limit or give up driving for health or physical problems. As of 2013, 19.1% of the noninstitutionalized-Medicare 65+ population had given up driving, while 33.4% limited their driving to daytime only, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

Public transportation options remain elusive in the U.S. 45% of people in this country have no access to these options, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Alternatively, seniors can walk, catch a ride with a friend or family member, or utilize a ride-hailing service instead of driving or using public transportation.

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Health and medical care

Senior health and chronic diseases. Chronic conditions are common among older adults. Approximately 85% have at least one chronic condition, while 60% have at least two chronic conditions, as explained by the National Institute on Aging.

As people age, the risk of chronic illnesses increases, as noted by the NCCDPHP. These diseases may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Types of dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

Obesity and hypertension rates, as explained by National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, remained significant among noninstitutionalized people 65 and older from 2015 to 2018, as shown in the tables below.

In fact, the leading causes of death for people 65+ include heart disease and cancer, according to the NCHS.

Doctor and emergency room visits. In 2020, 83.4% of adults had visited a doctor or health care professional in the last year, according to the CDC. Trips to the emergency room can lead to further healthcare interactions and complications, as explained by Kenneth Frumkin, a retired emergency room physician with 36 years of experience. He notes the following occurrences for people 65+ who have visited an ER:

  • Approximately one in five will be readmitted after an initial visit.
  • One in three will be back at the ER within a 30-day time period.
  • One in 10 will die in the 90-day time period following their initial visit.

Cost of medical care. In 2019, people 65+ in the U.S. spent an average of $6,833 in out-of-pocket health care costs, which is an increase of 41% from 10 years earlier, according to the AOA.

This remains a significant number considering that the AOA noted that the median income was only $36,921 for older men and $21,815 for older women as of 2019.

Additionally, 94% of noninstitutionalized seniors aged 65+ were covered by Medicare, according to the AOA. However, Medicare does not cover all medical costs, which results in out-of-pocket costs for seniors.

Low-income seniors who are enrolled in Medicare may receive additional coverage through Medicaid. Twelve million people are “dually eligible” and enrolled in both programs, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

State-level statistics

Maine, Florida, West Virginia, and Vermont have the highest percentage of people in their populations aged 65 and older in 2019, according to the AOA. Additionally, the AOA’s recent report indicates that each of the following states has more than 1 million people aged 65+ in their populations:

  • California (5.8 million)
  • Florida (4.5 million)
  • Texas (3.7 million)
  • New York (3.3 million)
  • Pennsylvania (2.4 million)
  • Ohio (2 million)
  • Illinois (2 million)
  • Michigan (1.8 million)
  • North Carolina (1.8 million)

The above states combined accounted for 51% of the people 65+ in the U.S. in 2019, as noted by the AOA.

The following table outlines the senior population in each state as of 2019, according to the AOA’s data.


  1. https://www.acep.org/globalassets/sites/geda/documnets/aarp_buapr21er.pdf?msclkid=aac56f1cd07f11ec9a6979a811b02f1c




















Meet the Author
Melissa Bean

Melissa Bean is a copywriter at A Place for Mom, where she primarily creates content for veterans and caregivers. She pairs over a decade of writing experience with expertise gained from her time as a military programs volunteer and military spouse. She studied journalism at the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Haines Eason

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