Aging America

In case you hadn’t noticed, Americans, as a group, are getting older. According to a report by the Administration on Aging, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, as of 2020 more than 1 in 6 Americans was 65 or older. Seniors make up fully 17 percent of the nation’s population. That percentage is growing as successive years of Baby Boomers hit 65; in 2022, for example, the people born in 1957, the biggest birth year of the U.S. baby boom, celebrated their 65th natal days and added substantially to the geezer group.

This demographic make-up of modern America is significantly different from that of days of yore. As the article linked above notes, in 1900 only 3.1 million Americans, just 4 percent of the nation’s population, was over 65. Those numbers gradually crept up with the passage of ensuing decades, but during our lifetimes the growth has been explosive. In 1960, there were 16.2 million Americans over 65; by 2020, that number had more than tripled, to 55.7 million. In the decade between 2010 and 2020 alone, the number of such seniors increased by 15.2 million–almost as many people as the entire population of over-65s in 1960. These increases obviously put additional strain on senior-related programs, like Social Security and Medicare, and that strain will increase if current trends continue.

The report itself, which you can read here, has other fun facts about the over-65 Americans. The four states with the most seniors in 2020 were Maine, Florida, West Virginia, and Vermont. The average annual income for men over 65 was $35,808; for women over 65 it was $21,254. 10.6 million of those over-65ers were still in the work force. Arthritis is the most common chronic condition, affecting 47 percent of that population, and the group spends more than other demographic groups on health care.

And here’s a key statistic for those of us in the group who are wondering about retirement planning: in 2020, women who were 65 could expect to live an additional 19.8 years, and men at that age could expect to live an additional 17 years. Those numbers actually represent a decline from prior years, due to the impact of COVID and other causes of mortality. But here’s a bit of good news from a longevity standpoint–the number of people over 100 in 2020 was 104,819, more than triple the number in 1980. Adjust your retirement budgets accordingly.

Coronavirus Kids

One of our young friends shared some exciting news with us this week:  she and her husband are expecting their first child in December.  Their happy news makes you wonder whether we should be anticipating a “shutdown surge” of baby births in December, January, and February.

hospitals-remove-nurseries-baby-friendlyIt’s folk wisdom that you look for a baby boom nine months after unusual circumstances, like enforced shutdowns. bring people together, but there apparently isn’t much evidence supporting that notion.  To be sure, there was the famous, extended post-World War II Baby Boom — Kish and I are living evidence of that — spurred by people who had served for years in the armed forces returning home, finding an America that had recovered from the Great Depression, and starting large families.  But most of the other instances where people have looked for evidence substantiating the folk wisdom — be they government shutdowns, or the great New York City blackout of 1965 — have found no great spike in baby births nine months later.

Experts are skeptical that we’re going to see a bunch of coronavirus kids, either.  They reason, quite logically, that an enforced shutdown isn’t going to cause couples living together to change their contraception practices, and in fact the birth rate might decline because the closure of bars, events, and other social gatherings means there won’t be the opportunity for casual encounters that might otherwise lead to births.  In reality, though, no one knows, because we’ve never had an enforced two-and-a-half-month stay-at-home period before.  It will be something to be mindful of nine months from now.  If we do see a surge of births, it will be a nice, upbeat coda to a very difficult time.

And speaking of the experts and difficult times, they’re confident we’ll see a surge in another kind of family-related activity as a result of the shutdown and stay-at-home decrees — divorces.

Once More Into The Same Age Interlude

As of today, for the next two months, I am the same age as my older brother. Of course, when I saw him this afternoon he taunted me about it, as brothers must. It’s an annual rite.

00019762We were born 10 months apart, back in the ’50s during the Baby Boom, when hospitals were overloaded with newborns and every family was growing like crazy. He was the spindly one and I was the beefy porker. He was the well-behaved one who would pose politely for a photo with a smelly goat at a cheap petting zoo, and I was the Curly-lookalike who wrinkled my nose at the odor and wandered away as fast as I could waddle.

Having a brother so close in age has its good points and its bad points. The principal good point is that he went through everything right before I did, and if there were barriers to be broken he did the breaking so I could sail through clear. And, of course, we spent a lot of time together and both grew up cursed with loyalty to Cleveland sports teams, so I had someone to commiserate with when the inevitable sports disasters occurred. The principal bad point is that now virtually everyone thinks that I’m the older brother — and its not even a close question — while skinny, black-haired UJ is the youngster.

So it will be, again, until June 19 when UJ celebrates number 58. I’ll kid him about it when it happens, as brothers must.