9.1: Late Adulthood

Late adulthood, which includes those aged 65 years and above, is the fastest growing age division of the United States population (Gatz, Smyer, & DiGilio, 2016). Currently, one in seven Americans is 65 years of age or older. The first of the baby boomers (born from 1946-1964) turned 65 in 2011, and approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. By the year 2050, almost one in four Americans will be over 65, and will bed expected to live longer than previous generations. According to the U. S. Census Bureau (2014b) a person who turned 65 in 2015 can expect to live another 19 years, which is 5.5 years longer than someone who turned 65 in 1950. This increasingly aged population has been referred to as the “Graying of America”. This “graying” is already having significant effects on the nation in many areas, including work, health care, housing, social security, caregiving, and adaptive technologies. Table 9.1 shows the 2012, 2020, and 2030 projected percentages of the U.S. population ages 65 and older.

Table 9.1: Percent of United States Population 65 Years and Older.
Compiled from data from An Aging Nation: The older population in the United States. United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1140.pdf
Percent of United States Population 2012 2020 2030
65 years and older 13.7% 16.8% 20.3%
65-69 4.5% 5.4% 5.6%
70-74 3.2% 4.4% 5.2%
75-79 2.4% 3.0% 4.1%
80-84 1.8% 1.9% 2.9%
85 years and older 1.9% 2.0% 2.5%

The “Graying” of the World

Even though the United States is aging, it is still younger than most other developed countries (Ortman, Velkoff, & Hogan, 2014). Germany, Italy, and Japan all had at least 20% of their population aged 65 and over in 2012, and Japan had the highest percentage of elderly. Additionally, between 2012 and 2050, the proportion aged 65 and over is projected to increase in all developed countries. Japan is projected to continue to have the oldest population in 2030 and 2050. Table 9.2 shows the percentages of citizens aged 65 and older in select developed countries in 2012 and projected for 2030 and 2050.

Table 9.2: Percentage of Citizens 65 years and Older in Six Developed Countries.
Compiled from data from An Aging Nation: The older population in the United States. United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1140.pdf
Percent of Population 65 and Older 2012 2030 2050
America 13.7% 20.3% 22%
Japan 24% 32.2% 40%
Germany 20% 27.9% 30%
Italy 20% 25.5% 31%
Canada 16.5% 25% 26.5%
Russia 13% 20% 26%

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA, 2015b), there are 524 million people over 65 worldwide. This number is expected to increase from 8% to 16% of the global population by 2050. Between 2010 and 2050, the number of older people in less 250%, compared with only a 71% increase in developed countries. Declines in fertility and improvements in longevity account for the percentage increase for those 65 years and older. In more developed countries, fertility fell below the replacement rate of two live births per woman by the 1970s, down from nearly three children per woman around 1950. Fertility rates also fell in many less developed countries from an average of six children in 1950 to an average of two or three children in 2005. In 2006, fertility was at or below the two-child replacement level in 44 less developed countries (NIA, 2015d).


Habiba Adan Salat, a Somali woman
Figure 9.1: Age is increasing worldwide.

In total number, the United States is projected to have a larger older population than the other developed nations, but a smaller older population compared with China and India, the world’s two most populous nations (Ortman et al., 2014). By 2050, China’s older population is projected to grow larger than the total U.S. population today. As the population ages, concerns grow about who will provide for those requiring long-term care. In 2000, there were about 10 people 85 and older for every 100 persons between ages 50 and 64. These midlife adults are the most likely care providers for their aging parents. The number of old requiring support from their children is expected to more than double by the year 2040 (He, Sengupta, Velkoff, & DeBarros, 2005). These families will certainly need external physical, emotional, and financial support in meeting this challenge.


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Lifespan Development - A Psychological Perspective by Martha Lally and Suzanne Valentine-French is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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