Senior Life in the 21st Century: Key Facts and Stats You Need to Know

One way a person can better understand who they are and their place in the world is by understanding key facts about other people in their generational cohort. In this article, we present some fundamental statistics associated with women and men in their Golden Years.

Senior Life Expectancy Statistics

Statistics associated with life expectancy, including the life expectancy of people who have reached their Golden Years, are illuminating. For example:

  • The average live expectancy for a person in the United States at this juncture in time is 78 years. Specifically, for a baby born in 2015, the average expected lifespan is 78.8 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • For males born in 2015, the average life expectancy was 76.5 years, and for females, it was 81.2 years. Significant mortality differences are associated with income, region of the United States, and other demographics.
  • If you reach age 80, you will likely live much longer. Men and women who reach the 80-year mark live another eight to ten years on average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • More than 50,000 Americans are age 100 or older. On average, centenarians are slightly more educated than others from their birth years. Most have been married and widowed. About 80 percent of centenarians are women.

Senior Health Statistics

Closely connected to senior longevity data are statistics associated with the health of older Americans and people in the United States more generally. Key pieces of data in the arena of senior health include:

  • Women still tend to outlive men. However, their advantage is shrinking for a preventable reason. Increasing lung cancer rates in women explains why the gender gap in mortality is shrinking.
  • Women in the United States have always tended to live longer than men in their respective demographic groups. A big reason is that women have been less likely to engage in risky behaviors that include:
    • Using guns
    • Riding motorcycles
    • Working in coal mines
    • Serving in combat
    • Smoking tobacco
  • The more that cigarette smoking has become socially acceptable for women, the more the gender gap in mortality has had reason to narrow.
  • The leading cause of senior injuries and death is falling. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2016 that about 25 percent of Americans aged 65 or older fall down in a given year. Falling is the leading cause of senior injury and death. Preventive tactics against falls include:
    • Keeping eyewear prescriptions up-to-date
    • Exercising for balance
    • Keeping floors clutter-free
  • Most seniors have more than one chronic healthcare issue. The National Council on Aging found that 75 percent of seniors have at least one chronic health condition, but most seniors have two or more. Conditions range from mild arthritis to advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Risks of adult tooth loss are significantly different across the states. The State-by-State Report Card on Healthy Aging reports that in Utah and Connecticut, older adults are least likely to have lost many teeth; about 71 percent have lost five or fewer. The highest rate of adult tooth loss was in West Virginia, with about 33 percent having lost five or fewer.
  • Having access to healthcare, avoiding obesity, and avoiding tobacco smoke seem to be most important for longevity for seniors.

Senior Retirement Statistics

In addition to data about senior health and mortality, information about retirement among older Americans in today’s world is also helpful:

  • Many seniors never retire. Many people continue to work beyond the so-called “official retirement age.” In many cases, seniors do not save enough money for a comfortable retirement. However, many seniors keep working because they enjoy it. In 2016, a Pew Research poll found that nearly 20 percent of senior citizens had not retired. These seniors were working full-time.
  • Only 3 percent of senior citizens live in nursing homes. 
  • Retirees can choose from about 5,000 continuing care retirement communities in the US. The exact figure in 2012 was 4,815. Some of these so-called senior communities cater to tenants as young as 50. The unique advantage of a continuing care retirement community is that it does not need to relocate if/when assisted care or skilled nursing care is needed.
  • A significant percentage of Americans prefer Florida over other states for retirement. Three good reasons are:
    • Warm weather
    • No income tax
    • Friends have chosen Florida  
  • Florida has had the highest percentage of senior residents at about 19 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau. At the other extreme, the state with the lowest percentage of residents 65 and older is Alaska. Alaska has about 9.5 percent seniors in its population.

Senior Travel Statistics

Seniors in the United States are traveling with fairly significant frequency. Some key facts about senior travel include:

  • AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) reported that the average baby boomer planned to take four or five trips. The primary reasons for travel were to escape, be with family and friends, and rejuvenate.
  • Long weekend trips are particularly popular among seniors.
  • Genealogical journeys are popular too. Ancestral research is increasingly common among seniors in the United States. These men and women travel domestically and to Africa, Asia, and Europe as part of trying to understand their heritage better.
  • Multigenerational vacations are increasingly popular as travel agencies promote group deals for airfare and vacation rentals. Seniors, their children, and grandchildren tend to meet at resorts, take cruises or rent private homes for family reunions.

Senior Social Life Statistics

Finally, some senior social life statistics are worth a look:

  • About half of seniors aged 65 to 74 are sexually active. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 53 percent of seniors ages 65 to 74 were sexually active.
  • About one in seven older men uses Viagra or a similar substance, according to the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007.
  • About half of seniors use Facebook. According to Pew Research, about 12 percent of seniors use dating apps or dating websites. Pew Research reported that about 50 percent of Americans 65 and older used Facebook. The use of Facebook has been particularly increasing among this demographic.