The fact that the population of the United States is aging is no surprise; the demographic projections are well documented. There have never been as many older adults living as there are today, and this number will only increase. Northern New England is aging more rapidly than the rest of the country, with Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire having the oldest populations in term of median age (U.S. Census, 2014). New Hampshire is expected to be the fastest aging state in New England through 2030, with nearly one-third of its population being over the age of 65 (Norton, 2011). This phenomenon is anticipated to place substantial pressure on publicly-funded health programs and long-term services and supports in the Granite State.
But the story of the aging of the population is not only about increased numbers. As longevity increases, the average age of the older population will see a dramatic increase. The number of persons over the age of 85 in the United States is expected to increase five-fold by 2040. As the possibility for functional limitations and disability increases with age, the need for long-term, formal, and informal supports is expected to increase as the number of older adults, particularly those over the age of 85 increases. In addition, women continue to live longer than men; on average, life expectancy for women is three years longer than for men. These factors create a complex picture of aging, which includes a growing population of older adults, a majority of whom will be women; and a growing number of those over the age of 85, who are more likely to require some type of assistance as they age.
It is a mistake to look at our aging population in a singular way. Although we tend to make generalizations about older adults, as a group, they are more physiologically and socially diverse than any other age group (Brummel-Smith & Mosqueda, 2003). As we age, we become more and more diverse, as there are no two people who have had the same life experiences, shaping who we are over our lifetimes. The baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are likely to be the most diverse cohort of older adults we have seen to date, and it is likely that they will redefine our conception of age and aging. Older adults bring a diverse set of skills, talents, and knowledge that should be tapped as a significant natural resource to support a new and exciting vision of aging.
Center on Aging and Community Living and the Endowment for Health
Fox, S., Davie, L., & Rataj, A. (2016). Collaborating to Create Elder Friendly Communities in New Hampshire: A Scan of the Current Landscape. Research report completed for the NH Endowment for Health, Concord, NH.
© 2015 UNH Center on Aging and Community Living and the Endowment for Health