Written by: Wan He, Mark Muenchrath, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau
Is your grandmother or great-grandmother 90 or older, widowed, living in a nursing home, and experiencing one or more disabilities? If so, she is not alone. In 2006-2008, there were 1.3 million women age 90 and older in the United States, representing three-fourths of the total 90-and-older population. Among the 90-plus women, eight out of 10 were widowed, four out of 10 lived alone, a quarter lived in a nursing home, and the vast majority had at least one disability.
People 90 and older nearly tripled from 720,000 in 1980 to almost 2 million in 2010 and are projected to quadruple by 2050. Their share among the older population (65 and older) grew from 2.8 percent in 1980 to 4.7 percent in 2010 and is projected to reach about 10 percent in 2050. Can you imagine a society, 40 years from now, where 20 percent of the total population will be a person age 65 and older and one in 10 of them is someone 90 or older?
The implications for the family and our society of this growing population are likely to be significant. The older people get the more likely they are to be limited by disabilities, which may make fully taking care of themselves difficult.
An older person’s likelihood of living in a nursing facility increases sharply with age. While only 1 percent of people in their upper 60s and 3 percent in their upper 70s were in nursing homes, the proportion rose to 20 percent for those in their lower 90s, more than 30 percent for people in their upper 90s, and nearly 40 percent for centenarians. A quarter of the 90-plus women lived in a nursing home, compared with about 15 percent of the 90-plus men.