The Aging American Population The American population has changed dramatically over the last
century. Our society has become effected by this in all areas and
walks of life. It is unknown what the future holds for America, but
the statistical trends in an aging population may shed some light. The
rate of aging in the United States will increase dramatically in the
second and subsequent decades of the century. Within the United
States, the size of the population over age 65 has soared during this
century, increasing from 3 million in 1900 to 34.3 million today.
Since 1940, the population of people over 65 has tripled and is
projected to more than double again by 2050.
The industrial revolution ushered in several technological
advancements and changes in American Society. One area that has seen
great progress is medical care, which has greatly improved the life
expectancy of Americans. This, coupled with the influx of new births
after WWII, commonly referred to as the “Baby Boomer” generation, has
contributed to an American population dominated by 50 to 60 year
olds. This drastic increase can directly effect multiple areas of our
society. Economically, we will see a decrease in the workforce because
of a growing retiree community. Increases in the public debt would
result largely from high health costs associated with the care of
those over 65 and proportionally fewer taxpayers under 65 replenishing
government revenues. People over 65 comprised 13 percent of the U.S.
population in 1995, but accounted for 40 percent of all hospital
discharges and 49 percent of all days of care. Though average length
of hospital stays has decreased for those over 65, their visits to
physicians are over twice as frequent as those under 65. With
increases in age, the intensity of using health care resources
increases: Those over 75, though only 5.5 percent of the total
population in 1993, accounted for 28 percent of all hospital days. At
the same time, the caregiver population comprised of both the elderly
and non-elderly will be impacted by these changes.
Aging is also an aspect of population dynamics that affects the level
of poverty also. As fertility declines and the population ages,
traditional family-based systems for providing old-age care may
weaken, leaving the elderly vulnerable. The...