May 10, 2014 in Opinion

Guest opinion: Snapshot of older Americans deserves look, especially by baby boomers

Lewis W. Diuguid
 

Baby boomers need to start paying more attention to data about older people because as time passes, more of them will be us.

More than 75 million Americans are baby boomers born from 1946 to 1964. Boomers born 1946 through 1949 will be 65 and older this year.

For May, which President John F. Kennedy in 1963 set as Senior Citizen Month and President Jimmy Carter in 1980 designated as Older Americans Month, the U.S. Census Bureau gives an interesting look into the lives of older people in this country. The census reports that 4.3 million people 65 and older in 2012 were full-time workers, up from 1.3 million in 1992. Older people are living longer, but they are working longer, too.

Older people now are a lot more educated than in the past, with 82.6 percent of people 65 and older in 2013 having completed high school or more, and 25.3 percent earning a bachelor’s degree or more. Older people also are well-rooted in their communities, with 80.7 percent being homeowners as of the fourth quarter of 2013.

But not every older person is well off. In fact, there are extremes – 9 percent, or 3.9 million people 65 and older in 2012, live in poverty. But the median net worth of people 65 and older in 2011 was $170,516 compared with $203,015 (in 2011 dollars) in 2005.

Blame the drop on the Great Recession, which hit people 50 and older particularly hard with job retirement savings losses.

The number of people 65 and older on July 1, 2012, was 43.1 million. They were 13.7 percent of the population. By 2056, people 65 and older are expected for the first time to outnumber people younger than 18 in the U.S.

People 65 and older are expected to number 92 million by 2060. One in five U.S. residents will be in that age group. About 18 million will be 85 or older.

The ranks of baby boomers will dwindle, shrinking to 2.4 million by 2060. The youngest among today’s boomers will be 96 years old in 2060. Rock on!

Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of the Kansas City Star’s editorial board. His email address is Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.


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