Who Are Our Older Americans? ACL Releases 2021 Data on Older Americans

older Americans, three older women hugging, smiling

Who are our older Americans? That is a rich and complex question that has a unique story for every individual and their web of relationships, communities, experiences and contribution woven through their life. Yet, the vast amount of data collected and compiled through the 2020 census tells us some important trends and patterns to note in our older population. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) released their report, 2021 Profile on Older Americans that discusses population growth, marital status, living arrangements, income, employment, and health of the 55.7 million people age 65 and older. It also includes a section on family caregivers.

Below are some highlights:

  • In 2020, the population age 65+ was 30.8 million women and 24.8 million men. That’s 124 women for every 100 men. At age 85 and older, this ratio increased to 176 women for every 100 men.
  • People age 65+ (55.7 million) represented 17% of the population in the year 2020, which amounts to more than 1 in every 6 Americans, and is expected to grow to 22% by 2040. The older American population has increased by 15.2 million (or 38%) since 2010, compared to an increase of 2% for the under-65 population.
  • The 2020 median income of older persons was $26,668 ($35,808 for men and $21,245 for women).
  • In 2020, 5 million people age 65+ lived below the poverty level. Another 2.6 million were “near-poor” with disproportionate poverty rates among older people of color: 17.2% of African Americans, 11.5% of Asian Americans, and 16.6% of the Hispanic population (any race).
  • People age 65+ averaged out-of-pocket health care expenditures of $6,668 in 2020, which is up 38% from 2010.
  • In 2020, about 1.1 million people age 60+ were responsible for the basic needs of at least one grandchild under age 18 living with them.
  • In 2020, life expectancy at birth decreased 1.8 years from 2019 to 77 years. This is attributed to COVID-19, unintentional injuries, heart disease, homicide, and diabetes.

For more information and details, see ACL’s full report.

Karen Joy Fletcher

Our blogger Karen Joy Fletcher is CHA’s Communications Director. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she is the online “public face” of the organization, provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare and other health care issues. She is responsible for digital content creation, management of CHA’s editorial calendar, and managing all aspects of CHA’s social media presence. She loves being a “communicator” and enjoys networking and collaborating with the passionate people and agencies in the health advocacy field. See her current articles.