CDC Reports Characteristics of Oldest Home Health Care Recipients

The number of the nation’s “oldest old” receiving home health care has not changed substantially in recent years, according to federal data analysis, and of those who did, about 22% were age 85 or older. 

Between 2000 and 2007, the number of 85-plus home health care patients rose 7% to 317,800, finds a new study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) examining characteristics of the nation’s oldest old. 

Of that segment, most (61.5%) were between the ages of 85 and 89, with the remaining aged 90 or older. Nearly three-quarters (72.3%) were female, and slightly more than 90% were white.


As of 2010, there were more than 40 million Americans aged 65 and above. About 14% of them belonged in the “oldest old” category, and they represent one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population, projected to increase to 19 million by 2050. 

Nearly eight in ten (78%) of the 85-and-older population live in private residences, with just 15% residing in nursing homes and only 7% in assisted living or other forms of community housing with services, according to findings from federal data analysis.

“Given the growing share of the oldest old in the U.S. population and their health care costs, it is important to have a better understanding of the special needs of this age group in order to plan accordingly for the future,” say the study’s authors. 


Almost half of the oldest old home health care recipients were admitted from an inpatient setting immediately before receiving home health care services, at 46.4%. About a third (31.9%) were admitted to home health care from a hospital or emergency room.

Most 85-plus home health care recipients surveyed by the CDC lived in a private residence where they lived alone (32.6%) or with others 53%.

Medicare was the primary payor for about 76% of the oldest home healthcare recipients, and nearly 9% had Medicaid. The remaining 15% used other sources such as out-of-pocket payments or private health insurance to pay for their home health services. 

More than half (52.2%) of the oldest home health care patients had four or more limitations with activities of daily living, while nearly 40% had one to three limitations. For those studied, bathing and dressing were the two most common activities where recipients needed assistance. 

Almost half of the 85-and-older home health recipients suffered from hypertension as a chronic health condition, while another 42% had heart disease at the time of the study.

Access the Oldest Old Long-Term Care Recipients study.

Written by Alyssa Gerace