Older Americans Have Come a Long Way Since the First National Older Americans Month
Did you know that every May is National Older Americans Month? It is also National Elder Law Month across the country! During this time we come together to celebrate the seniors in our lives and raise awareness about the many ways they influence and contribute to our lives. In truth, there is never a shortage of reasons to celebrate our loved ones but this holds especially true when we look back to when National Older Americans Month first began in 1963.
At the time of its creation, a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. Medicare had yet to be established and only 17 million senior adults, or about 9 percent of the population, lived long enough to reach their 65th birthday. Today, however, there are more than 49 million seniors, or 15 percent of U.S. citizens, and research tells us they are on pace to out-number young people for the first time ever.
Let us share a few of the many positive developments since National Older Americans Month first helped emphasize the immense importance of older adults here with you in our blog. This research shows us both the many challenges they’ve faced over the past half-century as well as the advancements.
Education levels among seniors are increasing. Only 5 percent of people aged 65 and older had completed a bachelor’s degree or more in 1965. Today, the share of seniors with college degrees has risen to 25 percent.
The average U.S. life expectancy has increased from 68 years old in 1950 to 79 years old today. Few other health indicators have been more impactful than the overall reduction in mortality at older ages.
The gender gap in life expectancy is also narrowing. In 1990, there was a seven-year gap in life expectancy between men and women. Today, the gap has narrowed to less than five years or 76.4 years for men versus 81.2 years for women.
The poverty rate for Americans ages 65 and older has dropped dramatically since National Older Americans Month began 56 years ago. It’s declined from nearly 30 percent in 1963, to just 10 percent today.
There’s been tremendous gains in senior health outcomes and quality of life standards over the past five decades, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Remember that many of the most positive impacts on a person’s life begin at home. You can make a difference in the lives of parents and grandparents simply by being active and involved. This May, make sure that you discuss what matters to them right now and in the future. Do not wait to involve us this May, or throughout the year, to help you have the conversations about lifetime planning, long-term care needs, and planning for your legacy together.