New Report on Senior Citizens a Mixed Bag

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A new report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics offers a snapshot of the status of seniors. While it’s based on data from 2009 (the latest available) and may not fully capture the impact of the economic downturn, health reporter Judith Graham says things are looking up for many seniors. She observes:

  • Fewer are living in poverty. Between 1974 and 2010, the proportion of older adults with incomes below the poverty threshold fell from 15 percent to 9 percent.
  • More now fall in the “high income” category. During the time period specified above, the proportion of well-off older adults expanded from 18 percent to 31 percent.

Still, there are challenges

About 40 percent of older adults pay upward of 30 percent of their income for housing and utilities. This is a substantial economic burden, and it speaks to a relative dearth of affordable housing for seniors.

Health and health care continue to be a challenge. Some sobering statistics:


  • Health care expenditures, adjusted for inflation, have increased significantly for older Americans, rising to $15,709 in 2008 from $9,850 in 1992.
    Older adults who are poor or near-poor (with incomes just above the poverty level) now spend 22 percent of their household income on health care services, up from 12 percent in 1977.
  • Obesity is making inroads among older Americans, driven by increasing prevalence among older men. In 2009-10, 39 percent of people 65 and older were obese, up from 22 percent in 1988-94.


Obesity can lead to diabetes, a leading cause of retinopathy and glaucoma.

“The trends in vision impairment and blindness, particularly among people 40 and older, are alarming,” EyeSight Foundation Executive Director Torrey DeKeyser said. “The nation has seen an increase of 23 percent since 2000 in this age group and the predictions for that trend to continue are sobering, particularly in Alabama which has such a high incidence of diabetes, a leading cause of retinopathy and glaucoma.”

A recent census by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers finds that there’s a looming shortage of eye care providers statewide.

Alabama’s elderly population is growing

Alabama’s elderly population (13.8%) is higher than the national average (13%) and this year’s Alabama State Plan on Aging projects it will grow dramatically in the next two decades. That has serious implications for the state’s health and long-term care industries.