If you sense that an increasing proportion of your patients are over the age of 90, your instincts are spot on. According a new report from the United States Census Bureau, you can expect the number of patients in your practice aged 90 years and older to increase significantly over the next 4 decades. In fact, this population stood at 1.9 million strong in 2010, but it may balloon to 9 million by the year 2050.
“Because of increasing numbers of older people and increases in life expectancy at older ages, the oldest segments of the older population are growing the fastest,” Richard Suzman, Ph.D., director of National Institute on Aging’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research, said in a prepared statement. “A key issue for this population will be whether disability rates can be reduced.”
The report, commissioned by the NIA and entitled “90+ in the United States: 2006-2008,” comes primarily from American Community Survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Highlights from the 27-page report include the following: Women aged 90 years and older outnumber their male peers by nearly 3:1; 88% of the 90 and older population are white; 85% reported having one or more limitations in physical function; 28% continued their education beyond high school; 85% of women are widowed, compared with 49% of men; 40% of women live alone, compared with 30% of men; and 26% of women live in nursing homes or other health care institutions, compared with 15% of men.
The report describes gains in life expectancy among Americans over the past century as “impressive.” For example, life expectancy at age 65 years increased from 12.2 years in 1929-1931 to 18.5 years in 2006. Today, 90-year-olds are expected to live on average another 4.6 years (vs. 3.2 years in 1929-31), and those who reach age 100 are projected to live another 2.3 years.
— Doug Brunk (on Twitter@dougbrunk)
Image courtesy tylerhoff’s photostream on Flickr