May is a time of new beginnings with perennials blooming and gardeners turning the earth to plant vegetables, herbs and flowers.
But May also is Older Americans Month, which is a time to recognize people age 65 and older. The U.S. Census reports that President John Kennedy first celebrated older Americans by designating May 1963 as Senior Citizens Month.
Every president since has issued a formal proclamation during or before May in support of older Americans. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter changed the name to Older Americans Month. The theme this year is Blaze a Trail.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website notes that being older doesn’t mean people are inactive. They are engaged in their community, reinventing themselves, ensuring that they remain financially viable and are focused on remaining healthy as they age.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
That’s important because the 65 and older crowd will be among the fastest growing in the country as time passes. The census reports that 46.2 million people, or 14.5 percent of the U.S. population, in 2014 were age 65 and older.
By 2060, that number is expected to hit 98.2 million, or nearly 25 percent of the U.S. Of that number, 19.7 million will be age 85 or older. Also in that group will be 2.4 million baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964. In 2060, the youngest boomer will be 96.
The 2010 census noted that 53,364 people were age 100 and older. Also, for every 100 centenarian women, there were just 20.7 centenarian men.
The census also projects that 2033 will be the first time in U.S. history that the population of people age 65 and older will outnumber people younger than age 18.
The median income of households with people 65 and older in 2014 was $36,895. That’s well below the U.S. median household income of $51,939. Also, 10 percent of people 65 and older lived in poverty in 2014.
However, the median net worth of householders age 65 and older in 2011 was $170,516. That’s probably because in 2015, 79.3 percent of people age 65 and up were homeowners compared with 63.5 percent for the U.S.
Military service was a key part of seniors’ youth. In 2014, 9.4 million people 65 and older were veterans of the armed forces.
Many seniors also have continued to work — 21.5 percent of men and 13.7 percent of women remain in the labor force. In 2014, 5.2 million people age 65 and older were full-time, year-round workers.
More than 3.4 million seniors were business owners, which was 15.6 percent of the business owners with and without paid workers.
The country also had 4,815 continuing care retirement communities in 2012, employing 423,627 people and generating $27.6 billion in revenue.
The U.S. in 2012 had 25,964 businesses providing services to the elderly and people with disabilities. Those companies employed 901,359 workers and generated $34.1 billion in revenue. In 2007 there were only 20,433 such businesses, employing 621,545 people generating $25.3 billion in revenue.
So serving the elderly and people with disabilities definitely is a growth industry.
Seniors are a bit more educated than the U.S. overall. In 2014, 81.9 percent had completed high school or higher compared with an 80 percent high school graduation rate in 2011-2012. Also, 24.8 percent of seniors by 2014 had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Marriage matters to seniors — 57.6 percent of people age 65 and older in 2015 were married; 24.4 percent were widowed.
This is an age group that doesn’t shy away from computers. In 2013, 71 percent lived in homes with computers. Also, 62.4 percent used a high-speed connection to access the Internet.
This also is a group that votes — 59.4 percent cast ballots in the 2014 elections. You can be sure they will make policymakers tend to their needs.