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Future US Senior Citizens Face Big Changes

1 in 5 Americans will be over 65 by 2050

This young worker had better be checking his retirement account on that computer if he wants to be comfortable at age 65
This young worker had better be checking his retirement account on that computer if he wants to be comfortable at age 65

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Ted Landphair

Analysts at the U.S. Census Bureau have a provocative forecast for America’s population in 2050, when today’s 25-olds will be knocking on the door of age 65.

If projections hold, not only will there be more than TWICE as many people 65-and-over in sheer numbers as there are now, but their percentage of the population will jump from 12 percent today to 21 percent.  That means more than one in five Americans at mid-century will be what we call "senior citizens."  And if current demographic trends continue, a much greater proportion of the nation’s elderly will be Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American.

Take a look at the typical American worker, circa 2050.
Take a look at the typical American worker, circa 2050.

Linda Jacobsen at the Population Reference Bureau, a private outfit that helps make sense of demographic data, helped us sort out the implications:

Primarily, she says, in 2050 a whole lot more people 65 and older will be on the job outside the home.  In part, that’s because many more than today will be well educated and in rosy health, and will simply WANT to keep working.  

Others won’t have a choice, since they won’t be able to get Social Security benefits as the eligibility age keeps rising - quite possibly to 70 or beyond by 2050.  And as private companies cut costs, generous pension and company-paid retirement accounts will be harder to find as well.  

Today, women more often than men are the ones who stay home to care for Mom and Dad in their last years - while men contribute money to their elders’ care.  But in 2050, women will be less available as caregivers, because more of them will also be busy at a workplace somewhere.  

So, Linda Jacobsen points out, young Americans had better be saving money right now in the increasing likelihood they’ll have to care for themselves in their advanced years.  But, they can expect plenty more nursing homes and assisted-living centers to choose from.  

In 2050, Americans who are 65 may be considered "middle-aged."  By then, only what demographers today call the "oldest old" - the 85-and-over crowd - will be thought of as truly "old."


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