The generation of people born between the years of 1940 and 1960 are expected to have major effects on health and social service systems. By the year 2030, about one out of every five Americans, or 20% of our population, will be a senior citizen in the United States. In other countries such as Japan, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom, senior citizens are even greater in number.

There have been improvements in the Social Security system that includes the introduction of Medicare that has had important effects on the economic well-being of senior citizens in the United States. Today, the percentage of senior citizens with incomes below the poverty line is about 10%. These gains have not been shared by all senior citizens. Poverty rates are higher among certain groups of senior citizens that include:

• Black Americans
• Hispanic Americans
• People who never finished high school
• People living alone
• People 85 and older
• People living in central cites
• People living in rural areas

Level of education among US senior citizens in the future is one of the most dramatic changes. By the year 2030, 83% of seniors will have completed high school. Senior citizens with a bachelor degree or more will have increased to 24%. These changes are significant for health and social service systems because education is closely related to lifetime income, and people with more education generally are in better health and at lower risk of disability. However, the better-educated seniors are expected to be more demanding health care consumers.

Widowhood is much more common among senior citizens due to the fact that women generally live longer than men. Senior citizens who live alone after losing a spouse usually prefer to remain independent and continue living alone as long as health and finances allow it. Even though many of this group of senior citizens have families or friends nearby they are still more likely than those who live with others to feel lonelier and more isolated.

Average life expectancy in the United States is currently highest for white women, followed by black women, white men, and black men. As an average, women who live until age 65 can expect to live to age 84. Those who live to age 85 can expect live to age 92. The number of people living to age 100 in the United States is certainly growing.

Disability and diseases are much more common in senior citizens than in people younger than 65. Common chronic conditions among senior citizens include:

• High blood pressure
• Heart disease
• Diabetes
• Lung disease
• Stroke
• Cancer
• Hip fractures
• Parkinson’s Disease
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Dementia

An increase in the senior citizen population means more health care expense, and the likelihood of having more than one disease among senior citizens also increases. Among people age 65 and older, 30% have three or more chronic diseases. Having more than one disease complicates care. Sudden change or illness in one body system may stress another body system and make it difficult to interpret symptoms for a definitive diagnosis. Sometimes the symptoms one disease may hide the symptoms of another disease. For example, a person with arthritis may never be physically active enough to show symptoms of heart disease, which makes making the heart disease difficult to recognize.

Senior citizens who need assistance with routine ADLs rely first on family. The use of paid helpers, however, is consistently higher among older adults living alone and increases with age.

On the average, senior citizens go to the doctor more often than younger adults. Senior citizens are also hospitalized more frequently than younger people.

Senior citizens utilize the services of home health care that includes medical treatment, physical therapy and homemaker services more than the younger population. Prescription drugs are a major part of medical treatment. At least 80% of senior citizens take one or more prescribed medicines.

One of the most important, unanswered questions is whether or not our increased lifespan will be filled with good days and years. It is not likely one answer can be applied to all senior citizens because of the great variations in health and functioning from one senior citizen to the next.

Other unanswered questions can only be answered by the passage of time. These questions include:

• Will the increasing numbers of senior citizens with more education and longer lives contribute productively to the larger society?
• Can the health care system handle the greater number of senior citizens?
Some analysts fear the great increase in the numbers of senior citizens from the baby boomer generation of people born between the years of 1940 and 1960 may place a strain on the medical care system and the public programs that finance health care and retirement to the breaking point. What we have on our side is:

• Improvements in health behavior
• Medical breakthroughs
• Financial prosperity

These three may help diminish the threats from the increased senior citizens from the baby boomer generation of people born between the years of 1940 and 1960.

Source: Foundation for Health in Aging

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All health concerns should be addressed by a qualified health care professional.

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© 2007 Connie Limon All Rights Reserved

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Written by: Connie Limon. Visit for an extensive list of articles all about Senior Citizens. Visit Camelot Articles at