Morton Marcus: Our surprising, aged neighbors

Two factors have been at work in the aging of America’s population: the increased longevity and the bulge in numbers of persons due to the Baby Boom of the mid-1940s to the mid-60s.

Today, we can expect continued extension of longevity and another population surge from the Millennials.

This phenomenon is everywhere. In 2019, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey recorded 1.5 million Hoosiers, 22.5% of the population, were age 60 and older.

The Hoosier 60+ population, while quite diverse in some ways, lacks diversity in others. Their many concerns are not what we might all consider afflictions.

The median age of the Hoosier 60+ is 69.5 years meaning just over half of them were in their 60s.

Nearly 90% of Hoosiers 60+ were non-Hispanic white.

46% of 60+ households were married couple families.

Another 41% were households of persons living alone.

Only 6.4% of the 60+ moved from where they lived last year; the Under 60 figure was 16%.

There were 55,300 foreign born Hoosiers 60+. Of these, 83% lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years.

The 60+ group, despite being just 22.5% of Indiana’s population, accounted for 60% of the veterans living in our state.

Disabilities were reported for 30.3% of the 60+ population; among the Under 60 the figure was 8.7%.

In the 60+ age group, 8.2% were below the poverty level; that figure is 13% for the Under 60.

Of 1.5 million Hoosiers 60+ in 2019, 456,000 (30.1%) were employed and only 0.7% unemployed. The remaining 69.2% were not in the labor force.

49% of 60+ households had average earnings from work of $64,619 for the past year; 51% had no earnings. In the Under 60 households, 94% had earnings averaging $84,323.

77% of 60+ households received Social Security payments averaging $21,387 per year; 23% did not.

55% of 60+ households received an average of $21,721 annually from retirement accounts; 45% did not.

81% of 60+ housing units were owner-occupied and 19 rented, compared to 63 and 37% respectively for those Under 60.

Not only is the population 60+ different from those Under 60, the major differences within the 60+ population have no uniformity of distress.

After WWII, the U.S. population 60+ stood close to 7.5% of the total. Today it’s about 25%. Individuals and institutions struggle to adapt and adjust to this new reality.

The profound fissures in our society may result from more than a technological quake. They may emerge from the seismic demographic shift of an ever-expanding 60+ population. This reality may have insufficiently identified costs and benefits to society in general.