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Total and Percentage of Elderly in Nursing Homes: 2023 Data

9 minute readLast updated September 13, 2023
Written by Leah Hallstrom
Reviewed by Leslie Fuller, LMSW, CDPLeslie Fuller, a Licensed Master Social Worker and Certified Dementia Practitioner, is the owner of Inspired Senior Care.
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Over 1.3 million elderly adults live in nursing homes across the United States. As the population ages, this number is expected to increase dramatically. It’s important to understand how these senior living communities are equipped to support aging adults, as well as what amenities and services they offer. Learn more about the current gender, race, and age demographics of nursing home residents across the U.S.

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

  • Of more than 55.8 million elderly adults in the U.S. (65 or older), 1.3 million live in nursing homes, representing 2.3% of the elderly population.
  • An additional 818,800 elderly Americans reside in assisted living facilities.
  • There are currently 55.8 million U.S. adults aged 65+. That number is expected to grow to 95 million by 2060.

Read further for breakdowns by demographic, location, and more.

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes are senior living communities that provide a range of health and personal care services. Also referred to as skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes typically provide 24/7 supervision and help with activities of daily living like toileting, bathing, and eating. Nursing home employees can also provide post-acute care including rehabilitative services after surgery, illness, or injury.

Other nursing home services and amenities include:

  • Medication management
  • Nutritious daily meals
  • Housekeeping
  • Complimentary transportation
  • Palliative and hospice care
  • Planned social activities and outings

The majority of nursing home employees are care aides. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are employed to provide professional health care services.

Who do nursing homes serve and support?

Nursing home services are for seniors who need round-the-clock care or for those with debilitating health issues. There are certain state-issued requirements for admission to a nursing home facility, and the process for acceptance can take a significant amount of time.

The most common condition among seniors in nursing homes is Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Memory care communities don’t always provide professional nursing services, so seniors with dementia who also have additional serious medical conditions often choose to reside in nursing homes.

Other common ailments among nursing home residents are:

  • Hypertension
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

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Historical perspectives and future predictions

In 1900, the percentage of American adults over the age of 65 was just 4.1%. Today, that number has grown to nearly 17%. It’s estimated that by 2040, there will be 80.8 million elderly adults, more than double the senior population in 2000.

Looking even further into the future, the number of adults aged 65 and over is expected to reach 95 million by 2060, with this particular age range accounting for nearly 23% of the entire U.S. population.

With the population aging rapidly, Social Security and Medicare expenses in the U.S. budget are estimated to climb to almost 12% by 2050 — up from just 8.7% in 2019.

How nursing home reputations continue to improve with time

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 put federal policies into place that allowed states to allot funds for seniors on Medicare to receive long-term care at home, aiming to reduce the aging population in nursing homes.

Prior to the Deficit Reduction Act, the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, passed in 1987, included nursing home reforms that aimed to improve facilities for seniors. Nursing homes became trusted options again as their spaces were renovated, physical restraints were phased out, and unnecessary antipsychotic drug use was decreased.

These improvements address the imminent and rapid growth of nursing home populations. It’s anticipated that by 2030, the U.S. will see upwards of a 50% increase in the number of seniors moving into nursing homes, with nearly 1.9 million seniors residing in nursing facilities full time.

Nationwide nursing home statistics and regional demographics

There are more than 55.8 million people in the United States who are currently 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of 2016, there were more than 15,600 nursing homes across the country aiming to meet the needs of the growing elderly population.

While you can find nursing homes in every state, the Southern and Midwestern U.S. regions are home to more nursing homes than other geographic areas. Many nursing homes are situated in larger cities or suburban hubs, with 71.9% of facilities located in metropolitan areas. However, the remaining nursing homes are located in micropolitan and low-density areas across the U.S.

Some of the states with the highest percentage of seniors age 65+ are:

  • Florida
  • Maine
  • West Virginia
  • Vermont

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Nursing home resident demographics

Nursing home residents all have different backgrounds and unique life experiences. Learn more about age, gender, race, and other societal demographics of nursing home residents across the nation.

Age ranges

Because of the requirements for nursing home admissions, the severity of a person’s health condition is more often the determining factor for care versus their age. As of 2017, there is not necessarily a typical age for admission, though exact age ranges of nursing home residents are broken down as follows:

  • 16.9% of residents are under the age of 65
  • 19.5% are between the ages of 65 and 74
  • 27.2% range between the ages 75 and 84
  • 36.4% of residents are 85 or older

Gender differences

The majority of residents in nursing homes are women, accounting for 63.3% of the population in 2018, while men make up 36.7%. Nursing home statistics on gender follow U.S. trends, as the nationwide population of people 65 and over consists of more women than men.

Racial disparities

Nearly 60% of adults age 60 and over self-identify as white and non-Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nursing home residents are predominantly white, though it’s likely that racial demographics will diversify in the coming decades.

As of 2018, nursing home populations across the country were:

  • 73.9% white
  • 14.9% Black
  • 5.7% Hispanic
  • 5.5% Native American, Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

By 2050, it’s estimated that ethnic minorities will represent 36% of all adults over 65.

Economic factors

Among nursing home residents, more than 60% use Medicaid as their payment source. Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 72.5 million Americans, including seniors with limited incomes and resources. Because most nursing homes accept Medicaid payments, this makes them more accessible for seniors with low-income backgrounds. In turn, nursing homes that receive the majority of their funding from Medicaid — with no outside help from other revenue sources — have greater challenges keeping their facilities updated and hiring expert staff.

Research has shown that seniors with an economic disadvantage are more likely to reside in nursing homes, while affluent seniors are likely to use additional savings to hire a home health agency or live in a continuing care community.

Marital status and placement predictions

Of seniors aged 65 and over, 70% of men are married compared to just 48% of women. The most up-to-date research indicates that nearly 70% of female nursing home residents are either widowed, divorced, or never married. Continuously married adults — that is, those who have never been divorced — are least likely to require nursing home care. This could be because they may be able to count on each other for support and shared caregiving.

Seniors who are married with adult children are 50% less likely to enter a nursing home than those who are divorced or live alone. Having adult children is shown to reduce nursing home admittance of both men and women. While adult daughters are more likely than adult sons to serve in a caretaker role to a parent, men tend to be more willing to care for their aging fathers while daughters often care for their elderly mothers.

Educational experiences

Although nursing homes don’t typically collect information about their residents’ education levels, the education of the elderly population has increased in recent years. In 1970, the percentage of seniors with a high school diploma was 28%, while in 2020 it soared to 89%.

Understanding nursing home costs

The cost for seniors to live in a nursing home varies by state and community. Prices of all senior living options, including nursing homes, have increased exponentially over the last few decades. The median annual cost for a private room in a nursing home in 2021 was $108,405, according to the insurance company Genworth. However, Genworth has not released an updated cost of care survey for 2022 or 2023. With raising inflation and increased demand for senior living, it’s likely that today’s prices will continue to rise. These ever-inflating prices make it essential for older adults to start thinking ahead and financially planning for the future.


Meet the Author
Leah Hallstrom

Leah Hallstrom is a former copywriter and editor at A Place for Mom, where she crafted articles on senior living topics like home health, memory care, and hospice services. Previously, she worked as a communications professional in academia. Leah holds bachelor’s degrees in communication studies and psychology from the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

Reviewed by

Leslie Fuller, LMSW, CDP

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