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More Americans Living to 90, U.S. Census Finds
Date:11/18/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- More Americans are living to 90 and beyond, and by 2050 their ranks could reach almost 9 million, a new U.S. Census Bureau report finds.

In fact, the number of nonagenarians has nearly tripled -- from 720,000 in 1980 to 1.9 million in 2010, researchers found.

Most of them -- 74 percent -- are women, particularly white women who live alone or in nursing homes, according to the report.

"The older population is aging rapidly and people have to prepare for a higher probability of living to 90 and adapting their lifestyle and savings behavior to that fact," said Richard Suzman, director of the division of behavioral and social research at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, which commissioned the report.

"In addition, we need to redouble efforts at finding ways to prevent and treat dementia and frailty," he said.

Those people living to 90 and beyond are the fastest-growing group in the older population, Suzman said. "This is in part due to the size of older cohorts coupled with increases in life expectancy," he said.

Because of the rapid growth in the number of 90-year-olds, the report also suggests that the definition of the oldest of the old be changed from 85 to 90.

Among other demographic features of this 90-plus population: Most are widowed white women living alone or in a nursing home. Most are high school graduates. Almost half of their income comes from Social Security and almost all are covered by Medicare and/or Medicaid. Most have one or more disabilities.

Although more older people are living alone, it does not mean they are healthy or independent, Suzman said. Many are living in assisted living facilities or have other home services such as visiting nurses, meals-on-wheels or help from family, he said.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Average life expectancy for a 90-
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