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Fifty million aging Baby Boomers are sparking demand for products and environments that accommodate their changing physical and sensory capabilities.

  Characteristics of Our Aging Population

Human Aging— A Recent Phenomenon

NEVER BEFORE IN HUMAN HISTORY has our planet contained so many older people— or such a large percentage of them. This has not always been the case. As late as 1930, America's older population numbered less than 7 million—only 5.4% of the population.

Today, one in three Americans is now 50 or older. By 2030 one out of every five people in the U.S. will be 65-plus. One out of every 8 Americans is considered "old" and represent 12.9% of the U.S. population.Those age 65 and older numbered 39.6 million in 2009, a number that has continued to explode.

The latest U.S. Census Bureau brief on data from the 2010 Census shows seniors increasing faster than younger populations, raising the nation's median age from 35.3 in 2000 to 37.2 in 2010, with seven states having a median age of 40 or older.

In the year 2000, people 65+ represented 12.4% of the population—a number expected to swell to 19% of the population by 2030. Between 2000 and 2010, the 45 to 64 population grew 31.5 percent to 81.5 million, and now makes up 26. 4 percent of the total U.S. population. This rapid growth is due to aging of the Baby Boom generation.

January 2011 ushered in the first  of approximately 77 million Baby Boomers, born from 1946 through 1964 and surging toward the gates of retirement. Each year more than 3.5 million Boomers turn 55. Their swelling numbers predict that, by 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. 

And according to the UN Population Division, 1 in 5 people are expected to be 65 or older by 2035.This dramatic growth in numbers and proportions, increased life expectancies, and energetic life styles, now enables us to live 20 to 25% of our lives in active retirement. Moreover, today's physically and intellectually active younger generations predict that tomorrow's elderly population will be better educated, healthier, culturally literate and, as individuals, more discerning consumers.

As they begin to experience declines in their physical and sensory capabilities, they will demand—and respond to—products and services that help them maintain their active lifestyles and activities: flexible scheduling, continuing education, travel, intellectual and stimulating experiences, and opportunities for companionship.

Transgenerational design provides a harmonious bond between products and services and the people that use them. Additional information—including a description of "Transgenerational Design," its origins, benefits, and history—can be found on Wikipedia.

The Elderly Sub-Population

Age Classification Chart   THE DRAMATIC INCREASE in the number of people reaching age 65 — coupled with their increased life expectancy — have expanded the classification of those age 65 and older to include three sub-populations commonly referred to as the "young old," the "old," and the "old-old" groups.

The "Young Old" 65-74 
The first wave of aging Baby Boomers reached full retirement age in 2011. For the next 20 years, 74 million Boomers will retire. This means that 10,000 new retirees will be added to the Social Secrity and Medicare rolls each day.

The "Old" 74-84
During the next decade, increased life expectancy will strengthen the wave of aging Boomers and steadily increase their total number contained within the elderly sub-population.

The "Oldest-Old" 85+ 
The fastest-growing segment of the total population is the oldest  old—those 80 and over. Their growth rate is twice that of those 65 and over and almost 4-times that for the total population. In the United States, this group now represents 10% of the older population and will more than triple from 5.7 million in 2010 to over 19 million by 2050.

Elderly Boomers Will be Different

Bicycling Boomers  
UNLIKE THEIR PARENTS GENERATION , Boomers will be a market with very different characteristics. They exercise twice as much as previous generations. No bocci ball or badminton—no rocking chairs or vegitating in the desert sun.

They'll continue to bike, hike, swim, sail, and ski—play softball and basketball. They'll move to the mountains, beaches, islands, college towns— where the physical and intellectual action is.

A survey by Del Web showed that half of them expect to  work at least part-time once they retire. And they'll want offices in their homes—with highspeed internet connections for those two or more computers, which 40 percent of them already own. As LeRoy Hanneman, president and CEO of Del Web says...

"Boomers should be called "Zoomers."

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  The Swelling Aging Population

A Recent Global Phenomenon

World Map   AS WE ENTER THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY, population aging has emerged as a major demographic trend worldwide. Declining fertility, and improved health and longevity, have swelled the older populations dramatically—and at an unprecedented rate.
  • For the first time in history, people aged 65 and over will soon outnumber children under the age of 5.

  • Throughout the world today, there are more people aged 65 and older than the entire populations of Russia, Japan, France, Germany and Australia—combined.
  • By 2030, 55 countries are expected to see their 65 and older populations at least 20 percent of their total.

  • By  2040, the global population is projected to number 1.3 billion older people—accounting for 14 percent of the total.

  • By 2050, the U.N. estimates that the proportion of the world's population age 65 and over will more than double, from 7.6% today to 16.2%.

Projected Acceleration of Population Aging

Global Population Chart
Source: United Nations, 2009


Future Projections

Old Hands   IN 2009, THE GLOBAL POPULATION OF PEOPLE AGED 60 AND OVER was 680 million people, representing 11 percent of the world's population. They have increased by 10.4 million just since 2007—an average increase of 30,000 each day.


  • By 2050, the 60 and older population will increase from 680 million to 2 billion—increasing from 11 to 22 percent of the world's population.

  • From 1950 to 2050, the world population will have increased by a factor of 3.6; those 60 and over will have increased by a factor of 10; and those 80 and over by a factor of 27.

  • By 2050, Europe will continue to be the world's oldest region with its elder population increasing more than five fold—from 40 million to 219 million.
  • Only 5 percent of Africa's population is projected to be 65 and older by 2050, with sub-Sararan Africa remaining the world's youngest region.
  • China and India have the largest older populations. By 2050, China will see its number of elders grow 30% from 109 million to 350 million—India, from 62 million to 240 milion.

  • Japan, with today's largest share of the world's old-age population, will see its percentage of those 60 and over rise from 27 percent to 44 percent in 2050.

  • By 2050, more than 70 countries, representing about one third of the world's population, will surpass Japan's present old-age share of 27 percent.

  • In the coming decades, all regions of the globe will experience population aging. Today's 5-22 percent range will become an 11-34 percent range in 2050 (UN, 2009)

One of Nine Americans is Old


TODAY IN THE UNITED STATES, 40.3 million Americans are age 65 and older, an estimated 13% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And their number is expected to more than double to 89 million by 2050.


  • The United States contains more people age 65 and older than the total population of Canada.

  • Americans aged 65 and older outnumber the combined populations of New York, London, and Moscow.

  • In 2010, Baby Boomers will begin reaching age 65, swelling the 65 and over population in the United States from 13.0 to 20.0 percent by the year 2050.

  • America's elderly population is expected to reach 72 million by 2030, more than double the number in 2000.

THE U.S. ADMINISTRATION ON AGING reports that in 2009 the older population of those 65 and older was 39.6 million, representing 12.9 percent of the U.S. population, or about one in every eight Americans.

Back in 2000, people aged 65 and older represented 12.4 percent of the population. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their 2000 number.

Aging Chart

Growing Old, At Home

TOMORROW'S ELDER POPULATION will differ from those of past decades. They will enjoy longer lives, better health and more active life styles than previous generations. Still, the overwhelming majority will also face a growing and continuous challenge—maintaining their precious independence.

Today, according to the AARP, upon retirement, 9 out of 10 seniors already stay where they are, prefering to grow old in their own homes. But successful "aging in place" demands that one's home and household products not only provide continuedenjoyment and stimulation, it must also support one's declining functional limitations and enhance one's quality of life.

Refusing to be stigmatized by living in a "home for the Aged" or using "elderly products," aging Baby Boomers will seek out designs that accommodate rather than discriminate, symmpathize rather than stigmatize, and appeal to users of all ages and abilities.

Transgenerational design provides the accommodation everyone seeks!


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  Why the Population is Aging

Three factors drive the Increase in life expectancy:

  • AGE DYNAMICS - Past variations in birth and death rates affect the evolution of a country's age structure (i.e., the 1946-1964 baby boom in the United States).

  • DECLINING FERTILITY RATES - A declining share of young people within the general population causes the population's share of older people to rise automatically.

  • LONGEVITY INCREASE - As the population ages, there is general agreement that an increse in life expectancy will continue.

Life Expectancy at an All Time High

Life Expectanncy chart  

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy at birth has risen to a new high of nearly 78 years. Today, a newborn infant can expect to live for 78.3 years.

Two thousand years ago the average Roman could expect to live 22 years. Those born in 1900 could only expect to live 47.3 years.

By 1930, life expectancy had risen to 59.7 years, rising again in 1960 to 69.7 years. Continuing its dramatic rise, life expectancy increased 1.4 years from 76.5 in 1997 to 77.9 in 2007.

This dramatic increase in life expectancy is not accidental. Its substantial and pleasing rise results from infectious disease control, public health initiatives, and new surgical and rabilitation techniques.

Declining Mortality Rates

While heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death, accounted for nearly half (48.5 percent) of all deaths in 2007, mortality rates declined significantly for eight of the 15 leading causes of death:

  • influenza and pneumonia (down 8.4 percent)
  • homicide (down 6.5 percent)
  • accidents (down 5 percent)
  • heart disease (down 4.7 percent)
  • stroke (down 4.6 percent)
  • diabetes (down 3.9 percent)
  • hypertension (down 2 .7 percent)
  • cancer (down 1.8 percent)

Put in perspective, life expectancy at age 65 has increased more in the last 30 years than the entire 200-year period from 1750 to 1950. Today, a person age 65 can expect to live another 15 years. A man of 75 has a 50-50 chance of reaching 84; a woman, 86.

Increased Longevity for All

ALSO IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER—older people are not the only beneficiaries of increased longevity. Life expectancy has increased dramatically for those in infancy, childhood, and even early adulthood due to improved medical breakthroughs in solving problems with birth, early infancy disorders, and contagious diseases.

Add improvements in nutrition and sanitation, and we can see the reasons why most children today reach adulthood and why most adults reach old age. The bottom line:

The longer you live, the longer you're likely to live!

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  A Skewed Sex Ratio

It's a woman's world.


WE TEND TO IGNORE THIS FACT: Women live longer than men — and this has consequences!

As the world's population grows steadily older, it also becomes predominantly more female. In 2008 alone, an estimated 62 million more women than men lived to age 65 and over.

Today, the 2010 U.S. Census bureau splits the American population 49.2% male and 50.8% female. As their share of the population increases with age, women characteristically comprise the majority of the older population in the majority of countries throughout the world.

The ratio changes.

The sex ratio (the number of men per 100 women) also changes over the human life span. Surprisingly, 105 male births occur for every 100 female births. As time passes, the number of males continues to exceed females until the third decade (20-29). From that age on, women increasingly outnumber men.

Sex Ratio Chart

For every 100 females In the 65-74 age group, we find only 86 males. Their number continues to drops to 72 in the 75-84 age group. For the old-old groups (85 and older) the sex ratio becomes even more pronounced expanding to an astounding 49 men for every 100 women.

But the gap in mortality between men and women that occurs in the older ages continues to narrow. The 2010 Census reports there were approximately twice as many women as men at age 89. This point occurs about 4 years older than it did in 2000, and six years older than it did in 1990, evidence of the narrowing gap .

Still, the higher mortality rates for men, beginning at birth and continuing throughout the life course, result in increasingly fewer men than women tallied within each of the elderly sub-populations.

The implications are self evident...

Desiging for an aging population means designing for a gender imbalance of older females.

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  Race and Ethnicity

Reae-Ethnicity Photo  

One would expect to find older people to be similarly distributed among racial/ethnic sub-populations. But this is not the case.

The older population is becoming increasingly more racially and ethnically diverse as the overall minority population grows and experiences increased longevity.


They break down like this:

America's largest and fastest growing minority population is Hispanic
, making up 15% of the total U.S. population. With a life expectancy of nearly 81 years, they outlive whites by 2.5 years and blacks by almost eight years. By 2019 they will be the largest racial/ethnic minority in this age group.

The population of older Hispanics was 2.7 million in 2008—or 6.8 percent of the populaton. Their number is projected to swell to over 17 million by 2050 and account for 19.8 percent of America's older population.

Black or African American
In 2008, 3.2 million Blacks or African Americans accounted for 8.3 percent of the older population. Their number is projected to grow to over 9.9 million and reach 11 percent by 2050.

Asian, Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders
In 2008, this segment contained over 1.3 million people, accounting for 3.4 percent of Americns aged 65 and older. By 2050, their number is projected to reach over 7.6 million, accounting for 8.6 percent of the older population.

American Indian and Native Alaskan
The American Indian and Native Alaskin older population was 212,605 in 2007 and accounted for 0.6 percent of the older population.Their number is projected to grow to almost 918,000 by 2050.


Multicultural Photo  

An additional 156,794 persons 65 and older consider themselves to be American Indians or Alaska Natives along with another race category. Thus, a total of 369,399 persons 65 and older report having Amerian Indian or Alaska Native heritage. By 2050 they will account for 1.0 percent of the U.S. population.

The country's population distribution by sub-group shows a disparity in life expectancy caused by:

  • varying birth rates
  • socio-economic factors
  • immigration rates
  • inaccuracies due to enumeration problems of the census itself

In the next several decades, the percentages should change, resulting in a decrease in the white majority and proportionate increases in the percentages of minority elderly.

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