When you’re caring for an ailing family member, it’s easy to feel alone. Yet millions of other people just like you carry a similar load. You’re not alone. The senior population is booming, with 46 million seniors over 65 living in the U.S. today. By 2060, that figure is projected to double. Understanding the needs, lifestyles and views of today’s seniors can help you better understand the needs of the senior you love and care for. Here’s what you need to know.
About Today’s Seniors
As of 2016, seniors comprised 14.5 percent of the U.S. population. Seniors are living longer than ever before and leading more active lives. Many seniors continue working. In 2009, 17 percent of older Americans were working or seeking work. Yet financial concerns are common among seniors. Twenty percent of seniors had incomes lower than $10,000 in 2010, with median senior income at just $18,819. Nine percent of seniors lived below the poverty level in 2010. Seniors spend an average of 13 percent of their income on health-related costs.
More than half of seniors live in one of 11 states: Florida, California, Georgia, New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, New York and Michigan.
How Seniors Live
Seniors are becoming more technologically savvy, with about four in ten owning a smartphone in 2013. Most own cell phones, and at least occasionally use the Internet.
By 2025, one in four drivers will be over the age of 65. Yet older drivers are more likely to be involved in car crashes and are more likely to be injured. In 2015, 6,165 seniors were killed in car crashes — more than any other age group. This presents caregivers with a number of challenges. Recognizing the signs that a senior is no longer able to drive can save lives.
How Seniors Want to Live
Seniors overwhelmingly want to retain their independence. Ninety percent say they want to remain in their homes for at least the next five to 10 years. Eighty-five percent are confident in their ability to do so. Yet as seniors age, many begin to struggle. Just 43 percent of seniors over 70 say it is “very easy” to live independently. Twenty-five percent of seniors report that their communities may not have the resources they need. Only half say they live in an area with access to high-quality public transportation.
This desire for independence coupled with the barriers seniors face to sustaining independence is a constant struggle for many families. But there’s good news on this front: Most seniors are happier in senior living communities.
Senior Health Statistics
The stereotype of a frail senior who needs a lot of help is little more than a myth. Most seniors report being in good health, even well into old age. Yet socioeconomic status plays a big role. Most improvements in senior health over the past two decades have gone to wealthier seniors. Seventy-two percent of low-to-moderate-income seniors report having a chronic health issue.
Longer lives mean a greater risk of dementia, since the body sometimes outlives the health of the brain. The number of people with Alzheimer's is rapidly growing, with 5.7 million seniors affected. More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care to a loved one with dementia. Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast and prostate cancers combined, and one in three seniors die from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. If someone you love is living with dementia, this guide may be able to help.
The Senior Loneliness Epidemic
About one in three seniors lives alone. Seniors who no longer drive may spend long days isolated, and go days or weeks without seeing loved ones. More than a third of older adults say they are lonely. Loneliness is linked to so many health problems that some analysts have said it’s worse than smoking or obesity. It may increase the risk of death by 30 to 60 percent, and is linked to depression, chronic health problems and worse outcomes in people with serious illnesses.
For many seniors, senior living offers an antidote to loneliness, and a chance at a vibrant and meaningful retirement. Want to learn more? Check out our guide, How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Living.