By the Numbers: 65+ Population Growth Clashes with Declining Net Worth

The United States’ 65-plus population is expected to experience enormous growth in the next few decades according to Census Bureau projections, a trend that follows a five-year, double-digit decline in net worth among this demographic and bearing the probability of increased strain on the nation’s already-burdened entitlement system. 

The United States’ 65+ population numbered 41.4 million as of July 1, 2011, up 2.7% from Census Day in April 2010 and accounting for 13.3% of the total population. Florida remains the state with the highest senior population, with 17.6% of its residents aged 65 or older as of 2011. 

Thirty-three years from now in 2056, America’s 65+ population will outnumber the 18-and-under crowd for the first time, according to U.S. Census population projections


By 2060, there will be an estimated 92 million Americans aged 65 and above who will comprise more than 20% of the overall population. Of these, 18.2 million will be 85 or older.

Living situations vary among the oldest Americans. 

While centenarian males far outnumber their female counterparts at less than 21 men for every 100 women, the males are most likely to live with others in a household setting (43.5%). For more than a third of female centenarians (35.2%), a nursing home is the most common setting. 


Despite the massive pool of potential senior living community residents, financial data indicates that affordability may be an issue.

The 2011 median income of households headed by someone 65 and older was $33,118 in 2011. That same year, 8.7% of this age demographic was in poverty, for a total of 3.6 million seniors, according to the Census Bureau’s “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States” report

Social Security benefits are a major source of income for most of the elderly, according to the Social Security Administration. Nine in ten individuals aged 65 and older receive benefits, and those benefits represent nearly 40% of their income. 

Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, nearly a quarter of married couples (23%) and almost half (46%) of singles rely on Social Security for 90% of their income. 

Part of the problem could be a decline in overall wealth. Median net worth for 65+ householders dropped more than $25,700 to $170,128 in 2010 compared to 2005, according to a “Net Worth and Asset Ownership” report

Meanwhile, the number of people in this age group who have remained in the workforce has increased. In 2010, 16.1% of the 65% population were still in the labor force, up from 12% in 1990, according to “Labor Force Participation and Work Status of People 65 and Older.” Of those, more than 44% worked full-time. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace