Baby Boomers Living Longer, Healthier Lives - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/22/06

Baby Boomers Living Longer, Healthier Lives

More census details are coming into focus, particularly about that huge portion of the American population born shortly after World War II. There were lots of children--now adults, known as baby boomers.

And this older population is affecting the economy and healthcare.

What do President Bush, Reggie Jackson, Dolly Parton and Steven Spielberg have in common? They are baby boomers set to turn 60 this year, part of a huge trend you might call "the graying of America."

A new census report confirms it. The fastest-growing segment of the population is age 85 and older. And by 2030, nearly one in five Americans--or 72 million people--will be over 65.

"The current older population is healthier and wealthier, and living longer than ever before," said Victoria Velkoff, who authored the US census study.

She says the changing demographics will drive everything from business trends to public policy. "We're going to have to think about how pay for social security and Medicare and who's going to take care of this older population."

The study disproves some common assumptions. For instance, that more elderly people are holding jobs. In fact, far fewer are: just 19 percent of men over 65 work, compared to 46 percent in 1950.

And while we tend to think of older people as less healthy, in fact, disability rates among people age 65 and older have fallen dramatically. And older Americans are far wealthier than they used to be: while the poverty rate for black and Hispanic women remains painfully high, overall, just ten percent of the elderly live in poverty. Forty-five years ago, that percentage was 35 percent.

Baby boomers are living longer and healthier, which is a good thing, but not expected 20 years ago, which may mean some change in healthcare and public policy later on.

Send you questions and comments on WTOC health reports to Melanie Ruberti, mruberti@wtoc.com.

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