The United States is on the brink of a longevity revolution. 

By 2030, the number of people age 65 and over is projected to be about 71.5 million, of which nearly 10 million will be 85 or older. Not only are people living longer, recent research has shown that most older Americans report better health, greater wealth, and higher levels of education than older people in the past.

But the growing number and proportion of older adults place increasing demands on the public health system and on medical and social services.

Because we are living longer, we can expect to spend more time in retirement than previous generations did. Most financial planners recommend preparing for the future with a combination of Social Security, private pensions, and personal savings. Social Security currently pays the average retiree about 40 percent of preretirement earnings if they retire at age 65. Experts estimate that retirees will need, on average, 70 percent of their pre-retirement income (90 percent or more for lower earners), to maintain their standard of living when they stop working. 

Though today's older Americans are living longer and healthier lives than any previous generation, many Americans fail to make the connection between undertaking healthy behaviors today and the impact of these choices later in life. Research has established that there are both physical and mental advantages to physical exercise. Moreover, screening programs can lead to preventive measures and early treatment, which can substantially reduce the impact of illnesses. A healthy diet is equally important. Nutrition influences the progression of many diseases, and studies have shown that good nutritional status can reduce the length of a hospital stay.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Many assessments of the quality of life of older Americans tend to focus primarily on financial and health aspects. However, second and third careers, lifelong learning, leisure pursuits, voluntary work, and caregiving are also issues of importance that are sometimes neglected when planning for the future.

Aging. Last reviewed 12/04/2007

Sources:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007).
  • Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics
  • National Institute on Aging (2005).
  • National Alliance of Mental Illness.
  • National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
  • He W, Sengupta M, Velkoff VA, DeBarros KA (2004).  65+ in the United States: 2004
  • Public Health Service (1999). Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
  • Social Security Administration (2004). Retirement Benefits