Back in the day, no American breakfast table was complete without a pot of coffee and a hefty printed newspaper. It might sound primitive to a generation brought up looking at screens, but inky sheets of paper were once a key source of news for many Americans. Over the last century, TV and the internet…
Research and Statistics for Seniors
To help you avoid “fake numbers” about senior life in the US, here we share statistics about seniors with links to trustworthy sources.
Also below are general links to top resources such as AARP and the Mayo Clinic for reliable information about senior issues.
General Statistics About Seniors
Who is a senior citizen? The age range depends on context: a Denny’s restaurant, a senior living community, a government aid form… But generally a senior citizen is age 65 or older. That’s the age range we use for the following general statistics about seniors.
- Approximately 47 million seniors live in the United States. We base this number on a 2017 census.gov estimate that about 325,600,000 people reside in the US and a 2014 estimate that about 14.5% of Americans are age 65 and older.
- The senior population will soon double. The Population Reference Bureau projects that in 2060 nearly 100 million Americans will be 65 or older. This reflects the senior population more than doubling over 40 years. According to the CDC the rapid expansion is explained by the size of the baby boom generation and the baby boomers’ long life spans.
- The average American life expectancy is 78 years. More precisely, for a child born in 2015 the average expected lifespan is 78.8 years according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
For males born in 2015 the average life expectancy was 76.5 years. For females it was 81.2 years. Significant differences also correlate with income, region of the US and other demographics.
- If you reach age 80, you’ll likely stay awhile longer. Men and women who reach age 80 live another eight to 10 years on average according to the CDC.
- Women still tend to outlive men, but their advantage is shrinking… for a preventable reason. Increasing rates of lung cancer in women mostly explain why the gender gap in mortality is shrinking.
- Women in the US have always tended to live longer than the men in their respective demographic groups. A big reason is that women have been less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as playing with guns, riding motorcycles, working in coal mines, serving in combat… and smoking tobacco. The more that cigarette smoking has become socially acceptable for women, the more the gender gap in mortality has had reason to narrow.
- The leading cause of senior injuries and death is falling down. The CDC reported in 2016 that in a given year about 25 percent of Americans age 65+ fall down, and that falling is the leading cause of senior injury and death.
Preventive tactics against falls include keeping eyewear prescriptions up-to-date, exercising for balance, and keeping floors clutter-free. You can get helpful advice about preventing falls from the National Council on Aging.
- Most seniors have more than one chronic health care issue. Recently the National Council on Aging found that 75 percent of seniors have at least one chronic health condition, and that most have two or more. Conditions range from mild arthritis to advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
- Many seniors never retire. Many people are working beyond the official retirement age. This is partly because most seniors haven’t saved enough money for a comfortable retirement, but it’s also because people enjoy working. In 2016 a Pew Research poll found that nearly 20 percent of seniors citizens hadn’t retired and were working full-time. The situation is more likely to be voluntary, according to Pew, when the person has a white collar job.
- Only three percent of senior citizens live in nursing homes. The 2010 US census found that 3.1 percent of seniors were nursing home residents. Rather than move to a nursing home or assisted living, many seniors choose in-home care support.
- Retirees can choose from about 5,000 continuing care retirement communities in the US. The exact figure in 2012 was 4,815. Some of these so-called senior communities cater to tenants as young as 50.
The unique advantage of a continuing care retirement community is not needing to relocate if/when assisted care or skilled nursing care is needed.
Fun Statistics About Seniors
- It’s true about Florida. Older Americans do prefer Florida over other states for retirement. Three good reasons are warm weather, no income tax, and the fact that friends have chosen Florida too.
In 2014 Florida had the highest percentage of senior residents at about 19 percent according to census.gov. The state with the lowest percentage of residents 65 and older is Alaska, which has about 9.5 percent seniors.
- North Dakota has the highest percentage of residents over age 100. That’s according to 2010 census data, which says there were just over three centenarians per 10,000 people.
The average North Dakotan doesn’t have an extraordinary life expectancy (and in some ND counties the life expectancy is very low) but the eldest residents tend to do well. Some explanations:
- North Dakotans tend to have a strong sense of community; seniors are less likely to suffer from isolation.
- Some residents are descended from especially hardy “stock.” In the 1800s immigrants traveled to the area on foot from states in the east.
- Some residents have been physically active as farmers their whole lives.
For seniors overall, having access to healthcare, avoiding obesity and avoiding tobacco smoke seem to be most important for longevity.
- Seniors are traveling for fun. AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) reported that in 2015 the average baby boomer planned to take four or five trips. Primary reasons for travel were escape, to be with family and friends, and to rejuvenate.
What sorts of trips to seniors tend to take?
- Long weekend trips are especially popular and often include “bucket list” items such as visiting a particular US city or landmark.
- Genealogical journeys are popular too. Ancestral research is increasingly common among US seniors who travel domestically and to Africa, Asia and Europe.
- Multigenerational vacations are increasingly popular as travel agencies promote group deals for airfare and vacation rentals. Seniors, their children and grandchildren tend to meet at resorts, take cruises or rent private homes for family reunions.
- More than 50,000 Americans are age 100 or older. For the 2010 census the US government counted 53,364 people in this age group. On average .02 percent of a town’s residents are 100 or older.
On average centenarians are slightly more educated than others from their birth years. Most have been married and widowed. About 80 percent of centenarians are women.
- The tooth fairy makes unwanted calls. Risks of adult tooth loss are significantly different across the states. The 2013 State-by-State Report Card on Healthy Aging reports that in Utah and Connecticut, older adults are least likely to have lost many teeth; about 71 percent had lost five or fewer. The highest rate of adult tooth loss was in West Virginia with about 33 percent having lost five or fewer.
- About half the seniors 65 to 74 are sexually active. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that 53 percent of seniors ages 65 to 74 were sexually active. Their statistic for men and women ages 75 to 85 is less “fun” at 26% overall, and numbers were lower for women because many became widowed.
- About one in seven older men uses Viagra or a similar substance. Like the senior statistic above, this figure is from the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. The study included 1455 men and 1550 women ages 57 to 85.
- About 12 percent of seniors use dating apps or dating websites. That’s according to a Pew Research study of social media use in 2015. For comparison, about 27 percent of adults overall had used online dating.
One popular dating site exclusively for seniors is operated by AARP. Another is OurTime.com. Stitch.net is especially popular among seniors who can afford high membership fees and seek dates in their travel destinations.
Mainstream dating apps with significant populations of seniors are Match and OK Cupid.
- About half of seniors use Facebook. Pew Research reported in 2013 that 45 percent of American adults 65 and older used Facebook, and the number is likely up to 50 percent or more by now. The popularity of the platform was especially increasing among this demographic.
- The oldest known age for a new Facebook member is 105. ABC News reported in early 2013 that Edythe Kirchmaier had recently become Facebook’s oldest registered user. She was also California’s oldest licensed driver at the time. In 2014 she posted:
Age is an issue of mind over matter.
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter..
Do you know someone who could take the title of Oldest New Facebook User this year? Maybe give them a lesson or two in using social media. Kirchmaier got online with some help from her friends.
The following websites are authorities about US health, housing and other issues as they relate to seniors.
AARP is an advocacy group and a top general resource for seniors in the US. The acronym stands for “American Association of Retired Persons” but this nonprofit group serves older Americans whether they’ve retired or not.
- Website visitors can find a wealth of AARP information about seniors and employment, politics, menu planning and other topics.
- AARP members are eligible for discounts on products and services ranging from restaurant meals to AAA roadside assistance.
Another popular general reference is the National Council On Aging (NCOA). Two areas in which the site is especially helpful are economic security and healthy aging.
The Centers for Disease Control is a federal agency that works to protect Americans of all ages against health threats. Visitors can find useful CDC information about seniors in terms of disease statistics, immunizations for travel, motor vehicle safety and more.
A 2013 PDF from the CDC is especially about aging and health in America. It provides statistics about seniors and other information to help communities promote the health and wellbeing of older adults. This report highlights mobility as fundamental to healthy aging.
The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota is an excellent online resource for information about disease prevention, symptoms and treatments.
References for some specific types of diseases include:
Also see our Health page for detailed information and links about common chronic conditions.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a useful housing resource for many seniors. Not just for people in urban areas, the website has resources for suburban and rural seniors too. Visit to learn about these and other senior housing issues:
See our Housing page to learn about different types of housing especially for Americans 50+.
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