The 2017 Profile of Older Americans

older americans profile

The Profile of Older Americans compiles data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to create a statistical summary of older Americans. The Profile focuses specifically on the population aged 65 and older and looks at changing demographics across individual categories, including population, income and poverty, living arrangements, education, health, and caregiving.

Among the highlights in the Profile are these:

  • Over the past 10 years, the population age 65 and over increased from 37.2 million in 2006 to 49.2 million in 2016 (a 33% increase) and is projected to almost double to 98 million in 2060.
  • Between 2006 and 2016 the population age 60 and over increased 36% from 50.7 million to 68.7 million.
  • The 85 and over population is projected to more than double from 6.4 million in 2016 to 14.6 million in 2040 (a 129% increase).
  • Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased from 6.9 million in 2006 (19% of the older adult population) to 11.1 million in 2016 (23% of older adults) and are projected to increase to 21.1 million in 2030 (28% of older adults).
  • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach age 65 over the next two decades – increased by12% between 2006 and 2016.


  •  About one in every seven, or 15.2%, of the population is an older American.
  • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.4 years (20.6 years for females and 18 years for males).
  • There were 81,896 persons age 100 and over in 2016 (0.2% of the total age 65 and over population).
  • Older women outnumber older men at 27.5 million older women to 21.8 million older men.
  • In 2016, 23% of persons age 65 and over were members of racial or ethnic minority populations — 9% were African-Americans (not Hispanic), 4% were Asian or Pacific Islander (not Hispanic), 0.5% were Native American (not Hispanic), 0.1% were Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, (not Hispanic), and 0.7% of persons 65+ identified themselves as being of two or more races. Persons of Hispanic origin (who may
    be of any race) represented 8% of the older population.


  • A larger percentage of older men are married as compared with older women — 70% of men, 46% of women. In 2017, 33% older women were widows.
  • About 28% (13.8 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons lived alone (9.3 million women, 4.5 million men).
  • Almost half of older women (45%) age 75 and over lived alone.
  • The median income of older persons in 2016 was $31,618 for males and $18,380 for females. The real median income (after adjusting for inflation) of all households headed by older people increased by 2.1% (which was not statistically significant) between 2015 and 2016. Households containing families headed by persons age 65 and over reported a median income in 2016 of $58,559.
  • The major sources of income as reported by older persons in 2015 were Social Security (reported by 84% of older persons), income from assets (reported by 63%), earnings (reported by 29%), private pensions (reported by 37%), and government employee pensions (reported by 16%).


  • Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 34% of beneficiaries in 2015 (23% of married couples and 43% of non-married beneficiaries).
  • Over 4.6 million older adults (9.3%) were below the poverty level in 2016. This poverty rate is not statistically different from the poverty rate in 2015 (8.8%). In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) which takes into account regional variations in living costs, non-cash benefits received, and non-discretionary expenditures but does not replace the official poverty measure. In 2016, the SPM showed a poverty level for persons age 65 and over of 14.5% (more than 5 percentage points higher than the official rate of 9.3%). This increase is mainly due to including medical out-of-pocket expenses in the poverty calculations.
  • The need for caregiving increases with age. In January-June 2017, the percentage of older adults age 85 and over needing help with personal care (22%) was more than twice the percentage for adults ages 75–84 (9%) and more than six times the percentage for adults ages 65–74 (3%).

Click here to read the entire report:

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