America’s Seniors: How Many There Are, Who They Are, and Why Budget Cuts Would Harm Them

aging budget

Data recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living (ACL) documents the continued increase in the number of older Americans.

As of today, about one in every seven persons, or nearly 15 percent of the population, is an older American.

Importantly:

  • Those aged 65 and older increased by nearly ten million (a 30 percent increase) in the last decade—from 36.6 million in 2005 to 47.8 million in 2015;
  • Those aged 85 and over are projected to triple from 6.3 million in 2015 to 14.6 million in 2040;
  • Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased from 6.7 million in 2005 (18% of older adults) to 10.6 million in 2015 (22% of older adults);
  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 who will reach 65 over the next two decades has increased by 15 percent; and
  • The average life expectancy for those reaching 65 has increased by nearly 20 years.

Currently:

  • Older women outnumber older men by 5.5 million;
  • Twenty-two percent of persons 65 and older are members of racial or ethnic minority populations;
  • Older men are much more likely to be married than older women—70% of men vs. 45% of women;
  • One-third of older women are widows;
  • Almost half of women aged 75 or more live alone;
  • Nearly 30 percent (13.6 million) of non-institutionalized older persons live alone;
  • Nearly 77,000 persons aged 100 or more are alive today;
  • Women are more likely to be poorer than men—the median income of older persons in 2015 was $31,372 for males and $18,250 for females; and
  • Households with families headed by persons aged 65 or more reported a median income of $57,360 in 2015.

To no surprise:

  • The major source of income as reported by older persons in 2014 was Social Security (reported by 84% of older persons);
  • Income from assets was the second largest source of income (reported by 62%), followed by earnings (reported by 29%), private pensions (reported by 37%), and government employee pensions (reported by 16%);
  • Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 33% of beneficiaries in 2014; and
  • Over 4.2 million older adults (8.8%) were below the poverty level in 2015.

With the aging of America comes a greater demand for services, including: health-related services for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, senior daycare programs, assistance with independent living, and nutrition assistance. The need for health-related research especially around Alzheimer’s disease and dementia has also increased. The president’s first federal budget, unfortunately, confirms what had been expected: it would propose significant cuts in non-defense discretionary programs including those within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Under the president’s budget, HHS would see more than a 16 percent cut in funding from last year. A comparable cut in funding for programs under the Older Americans Act should be expected. In addition, programs like the Social Services Block Grant, the Community Services Block Grant, the Senior Community Service Employment Program, and the National Institutes of Health’s research on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease would be also be cut or eliminated.  If Congress adopts the president’s budget, and that is a big if given the criticisms that emerged from both sides of the aisle, these cuts will have a disastrous impact on millions of seniors, many of whom are already struggling due to limited incomes and inadequate access to services.

For more information on America’s seniors visit: http://www.aoa.acl.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/index.aspx. For more specific information on the president’s budget proposal watch for future blogs, including one this week that will explore some of the specific cuts proposed.

Neil Bomberg

Neil Bomberg

Senior Policy Advisor at National Association of Regional Councils
I am a highly experienced public sector lobbyist committed to ensuring that the issues important to regions and the local governments they represent are heard in Congress and the Administration. My issue areas include: budget and appropriations, human services, health care, workforce development, and economic and community development. I worked as a lobbyist at the National Association of Counties and National League of Cities for more than 26 years where I focused on labor and employment, and human development, respectively.
Neil Bomberg

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