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Population Explosion Among Older Americans

The United States saw a rapid growth in its elderly population during the 20th century. The number of Americans aged 65 and older climbed to 40.3 million in 2010, up from 35 million in 2000, and compared with 3.1 million in 1900. Between 2000 and 2010, the population 65 and older grew 15.1 percent, while the total U.S. population grew 9.7 percent. The trend is guaranteed to continue in the coming century as the baby-boom generation grows older. Between 2010 and 2050, the population aged 65 and older is projected to grow to 88.5 million. People in this age group would comprise 20% of the total population at that time (up from 13% in 2010).

The elderly population explosion is a result of impressive increases in life expectancy. When the nation was founded, the average American could expect to live to the age of 35. Life expectancy at birth had increased to 47.3 by 1900 and in 2010 stood at 78.3.

Along with the growth of the general elderly population has come a remarkable increase in the number of Americans reaching age 100. In 2010 there were 53,364 centenarians, compared with 37,306 centenarians in 1990.

Source: Based on U.S. Census Bureau data.


Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Population Distribution by Age, Race, Nativity, and Sex Ratio, 1860–2005PopulationPopulation 65 Years and Over by Age, 1990 and 2000

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