U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Population Characteristics

In 2008, there were nearly 39 million noninstitutionalized adults aged 65 years and older in the United States. Women accounted for nearly 22.5 million or 57.7 percent of the older population. The age distribution of older adults varies by sex. More than 16 percent of older women were aged 85 years and older, compared to only 10.4 percent of the older male population. Similarly, 27.2 percent of older women were 65–69 years of age, compared to 32.2 percent of older men.

The distribution of the older female population varies by race and ethnicity and age. In 2008, non-Hispanic White women accounted for the majority of women aged 65 and older (79.9 percent), followed by Black and Hispanic women (9.0 and 6.8 percent, respectively). As age increases, non-Hispanic White women account for a greater percentage of the female population, while each of the other racial and ethnic groups account for a lower percentage. Non-Hispanic White women accounted for 77.3 percent of women aged 65–74 years, and 84.8 percent of women aged 85 years and older. In comparison, Hispanic women accounted for 7.6 percent of 65- to 74-year-olds and only 4.7 percent of those aged 85 years and older.

In the year 2011, the oldest members of the baby boom cohort will turn 65 years of age. Over the next two decades, the population of older Americans will grow dramatically as this generation ages

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