Monday, March 29, 2021

2020 Report on Older Americans


In 2020, the Federal Interagency Forum on Age-Related Statistics published an updated report about 40 key indicators of Well-Being. 

These 40 key indicators are organized into the following categories: 



Health Status

Health Risks and Behaviors

Health Care


Of course, this report published data about older adults before the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, some of the information has probably changed dramatically. 

Nevertheless, some of the information is still salient. 

You can read the full report here, which is more than 180 pages long. However, it includes three pages of highlights spanning pages xvi - xviii. 

After reading through the highlights, here are a few points that I found interesting. 

Population = 16%. This section shares data about age, marital status, education level, average life expectancy, and number of veterans. Many of the regular patterns hold: men stay married longer as they age than women. Educated rates are rising. Life expectancy is rising, but women still live longer than men. 

Because the pandemic will causes some shifts in the protections that are in this section, I choose to only share the total and the percentage of those 65+ in the US at the time of this report. "In 2018, 52 million people age 65 and over lived in the United States, accounting for 16 percent of the total population" (xvi). 

Economics = Aging Is Expensive. Many of the trends here reflect the increase of women working in more substantial jobs, making them eligible for Social Security benefits based on their own work history. There are still problems with poverty correlated with race, gender, and age.

Health care costs and housing costs are both problems for people as they age. "The most prevalent housing problem for older American households remains housing cost burden (expenditures on housing and utilities that exceed 30 percent of household income)" (xvi). 

Health Status = Living Longer, Sicker. Unfortunately, poor health status is correlated to race, with Hispanics and blacks having lower levels of health and lower life expectancies than Caucasians and Asians. Women still outlive men as a group. Mortality rates for cancer, heart disease and other common age-correlated diseases have gone down with advances in preventative care and curative care. 

However, living longer puts people at a higher risk for dying due falls and other unintentional injuries and deaths due to dementia-correlated causes: "Death rates for Alzheimer’s disease and unintentional injuries increased during the same period" (xvii).  

Health Risks and Behaviors = Smoking Down, Dementia Up. The good news is that older adults are smoking less and eating healthier foods. The bad news is that as a group, older adults are increasing in obesity and not getting enough exercise. "In 2018, only 14 percent of people age 65 and over participated in [recommended levels of] leisure-time physical activity" (xvii). 

Health Care = $$$. All statistics that I found in the highlights demonstrate that older adults are paying more for health care.  Overall, the pattern over the last few decades has been that people live longer, but they  live sicker.  "From 1977 to 2017, the percentage of household income that people age 65 and over allocated to outof-pocket spending for health care services increased among those in the poor/near-poor income category from 12 percent to 19 percent" (xviii). 

Environment = Cleaner Air, Where? This is a bit of a hodge-podge category, because "environment" can mean water, air, soil quality as well as level of activity and mobility for older adults.  It's logical to see the trends that as people age, they participate in fewer leisure activities and they drive fewer hours, particularly at night. 

However, I found this quizzical statistic about pollution: "The percentage of people age 65 and over living in counties that experienced poor air quality decreased from 69 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2018" (xviii). I'd have to read about this topic in more detail, but I suspect this decrease is due to more older adults living in rural areas than urban areas rather than because of environmental controls. But don't take my word for it. Do some independent research if this piques your interest. 

Bookmark to Read More Later. I suggest taking a look at the report itself. I have this bookmarked, and I will read more about each of the 40 key indicators over the next 40 days.  The report contains a lot of figures, tables, and charts in addition to expository prose. 


2016 Federal Report on Older Adults

2012 Federal Report on Older Adults

Pew Data on Technology Use among Older Adults


  1. Fascinating read! I've bookmarked the report!

    1. I do find it interesting to see the patterns that emerge. Many agencies came together to create this report, and the tables / charts in the full report are eye-opening.

  2. Cleaner air, longer lives, less poverty. We seniors seem to be doing pretty well. (But I may have to go on a diet!) Anyway, I took your advice and bookmarked to read more later. Thanks!

  3. Some sobering and some optimistic statistics here. An interesting read.

    1. Susan, I hope this report helps you to better visualize the landscape ahead of us all as ppl in midlife.