The population of Americans aged 90-plus nearly tripled in the past three decades, reaching 1.9 million in 2010, according to a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau and supported by the National Institute on Aging.
Those in the 90-plus age range represent 4.7% of the 65-and-older population in the U.S., according to the report. This is up from 2.8% in 1980.
By the year 2050, the number of U.S. nonagenarians is expected to more than quadruple to roughly 8.7 million Americans. This age group should account for about 10% of all American seniors.
According to redOrbit, some experts think the growth of the 90-plus segment of the U.S. population may even be underestimated.
Richard Suzman, director of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, said:
I think it’s going to grow even faster than predicted in the report. A key issue for this population will be whether disability rates can be reduced. […] We’ve seen to some extent that disabilities can be reduced with lifestyle improvements, diet and exercise. But it becomes more important to find ways to delay, prevent or treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The increase is a result of greater life expectancy; however, the study found that most seniors in this age bracket have one or more disabilities. They are also either living alone or in a nursing home. Those individuals in this age group also are more likely to be women and to have higher widowhood, poverty, and disability rates than those people just under this age cutoff, according to “90+ in the United States: 2006-2008″ report.
Statistics for this report, which drill down to the state level, are derived from the 2006-2008 American Community Survey three-year estimates and 2008 one-year estimates, as well as census data, according to the agency.
Wan He, Census Bureau demographer, said in a statement regarding the report:
Traditionally, the cutoff age for what is considered the ‘oldest old’ has been age 85, but increasingly people are living longer and the older population itself is getting older. Given its rapid growth, the 90-and-older population merits a closer look.
Previously, relatively little research focused on this increasingly important population group, and this report attempts to fill that void. The American Community Survey, with its large sample size in multiyear data sets, allows an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of the characteristics of the 90-and-older population.
Another finding in the report shows that an individual who does reach the age of 90 should expect to live almost another five years. Too, if someone reaches 100-years-old, they are likely to live an additional 2.3 years.
Among the factors for this shift are additional education as well as improved nutrition and public health. The latter has resulted in fewer strokes, less smoking, and better controlled diabetes among the aging American population.
The study, commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health, suggests that the current designation of the “oldest-old” seniors should be changed — from 85- to 90-years-old.
“Because of increasing numbers of older people and increases in life expectancy at older ages, the oldest segments of the older population are growing the fastest,” said Suzman, adding,
Previous seminal work on demography designated age 85 as the cutoff for what we termed the oldest-old. With a rapidly growing percentage of the older population projected to be 90 and above in 2050, this report provides data for the consideration of moving that yardstick up to 90. Can 90 be the new 85?”