You may or may not be doing better than average, but you’re almost certainly doing better than your parents.
Today’s elderly are healthier, better educated and live longer than any previous generation, according to a report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Supportive public policies and decades of economic growth have helped retirees to enjoy unprecedented increases in well-being.
Here are some of the details about the lives and living standards of retirees. Take a look, and see how you compare to the averages.
How educated are you? Retirees have become more educated over time. Some 84 percent of people age 65 and over are high school graduates, and 27 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, up from 24 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in 1965.
Are you poor? In the middle of the 20th century, nearly 30 percent of people age 65 and over lived below the poverty threshold. Today, the proportion of the older population living in poverty has decreased to about 10 percent. People 65 and older currently experience the lowest poverty rate of any age group in America.
How much do you rely on Social Security? Social Security accounts for about half of the per capita family income for people age 65 and older. Many retirees also receive income from continuing to work, pensions and assets.
Do you have health insurance? Nearly all Americans age 65 and over are covered by Medicare, which was created in 1965. Medicare pays for about 60 percent of all health care costs for retirees, financing most hospital, physician and home health care costs.
Are you still working? The labor force participation rate for older women increased from the 1970s through the early 2000s, but has leveled off in the past ten years. Conversely, for men over age 55, the labor participation rate declined in the 1970s and 1980s, then increased in the mid-1990s, and has been fairly flat since then.
What’s your budget? Households headed by people 65 and over spend about 35 percent of their income on housing costs – either rent or homeowner’s costs. The oldest age group, people 75 and over, spend an average of 16 percent of their income on health care – more than they spend on either food or transportation.
How’s your health? The prevalence of certain chronic health conditions differs by gender. Women report higher levels of asthma and arthritis than men. Men suffer from higher levels of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
How do you feel? Women over age 50 consistently show more symptoms of depression than men. But both men and women tend to get happier as they age. Adults experience the most depressive symptoms in middle age, but those between ages 65 and 79 actually experience lower levels of depression than any other age group.
Do you exercise? Unfortunately, probably not enough. Only about 15 percent of people between ages 65 and 74 participate in aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities that meet federal guidelines. Activity also declines with age, as only 5 percent of people 85 and over get any significant exercise.
How’s your weight? As with other age groups, the percentage of people 65 and older with obesity has increased over the past 30 years. About 35 percent of people age 65 and over are obese, compared with 22 percent in the 1980s. The good news: Smoking has decreased. Just 10 percent of senior men and 8 percent of women are current cigarette smokers.
Do you restrict your driving? About one third of people 65 and over say they limit their driving to daytime because of a health or physical problem. Over half of those 85 and over report limiting their driving or have stopped driving altogether.
How long will you live? If you’ve made it to age 65, then you can expect to live, on average, to 83 if you’re a man and 85 if you’re a woman. If you’ve already made it to 85, then you can expect to live another six or seven years.
Does anyone help you out? An estimated 18 million informal caregivers – mostly children and spouses, and mostly women – provide 1.3 billion unpaid hours of care for the elderly on a monthly basis. While many caregivers say they have things they cannot handle or do not have enough time for themselves, most caregivers also report positive aspects of caregiving.