Population, Graying of
The 1870 U.S. Census enumerated the elderly—people 65 years of age or older—at about 1.2 million people (3 percent of the total population of 40 million). However, during the 20th century, with industrialization and changes in fertility and mortality patterns, a new age structure emerged for the population of the United States. Twenty-eight million people were added during the 1950s, at the height of the baby boom era that began after World War II and ended in 1964. The years between 1960 and 1980 were especially dramatic in their contribution: although the total population increased by nearly 19 percent, the population of people ages 65 and older increased by 34 percent (about 25 million in 1980). When age 65 was set as the threshold for Social Security benefits in 1935, the predicted average life expectancy at birth was barely over 60 years. In comparison, the average life expectancy presently is ...