Aging America: 7 things you don't know

The unprecedented numbers of people living to an advanced age is one of the most profound social and economic changes of our time, with the potential to significantly alter the way Americans live, work and play. Some experts liken the impact of this revolution in longevity to the profound ongoing shifts in technology and climate change.

In the decades to come, there will be a stronger focus on all aspects of life for older citizens, as individuals and our society grapple with the implications of one of humankind's greatest achievements -- large numbers of people living to advanced ages.

Following are seven key facts and figures, drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau, that highlight the emergence of older America.

America is getting older fast.By 2060, roughly 1 in 4 U.S. residents will be age 65 or older. By contrast, in 2013 about 1 in 7 Americans, or 44.7 million people, were at least 65.

By 2033, there will be more old people than young. Within two decades, people over age 65 are expected to outnumber those under age 18. Among other things, that's likely to heighten the focus on problems associated with older Americans, such as as health care and retirement savings, while threatening to overshadow the challenges facing children, including education and obesity. Notably, substantial research supports the notion that one of the best ways to improve the odds of living a long, healthy life is to get a good start in life.

Older people live much less income than younger people.In 2013, half of all households age 65 and older had an annual income equal or less than the median U.S. income of $31,611. That compares with median income of $57,538 for households ages 55 to 64 and $67,141 for those ages 45 to 54.

Why do older people often live on less income? Their children may be grown and out of the house; they don't need to save for retirement any longer; their living expenses are often lower; and their income taxes have been reduced. On the other hand, seniors typically have higher medical expenses.

Kids are twice as likely as older people to live in poverty. As of 2013, nearly 20 percent of children age 18 and under in the U.S., or 14.7 million people, lived below the poverty threshold. The poverty rate for Americans age 65 and older was 9.5 percent, or 4.2 million people.

Most older people owned their own homes in 2014.According to multiple sources, well over half of these homeowners owned their homes mortgage-free. About 77 percent of those age 85 and older, and almost two-thirds of those at least age 75, live mortgage-free. In the years to come, this fact will only increase the attention from financial institutions selling reverse mortgages as a way to generate needed retirement income. Although that's not necessarily a bad use of your resources, people should also consider using their home equity as a financial resource to tap in case they need expensive long-term care.

In 2011, the median net worth of households age 65 and older was $170,516.The comparable figures for households age 55 to 64 was $143,964, $84,542 for those 45 to 54, and $35,000 for people 35 to 44. Net worth includes investments at financial institutions, IRAs, 401ks, home equity, rental properties, vehicles and checking accounts, and it's reduced by mortgages, loans and credit card debt. For the age 65 and older population, by far the largest asset is their home, accounting for more than three-fourths of their net worth.

More than 1 in 5 men age 65 and older were still working in 2013.This statistic includes all men over age 65, including men in their 80s and 90s, though the proportion of men working in their late 60s and early 70s is higher. For example, a recent report from the Stanford Center on Longevity (SCL) indicates that almost 1 in 3 men age 65 to 74 were working in 2010. Just under 1 in 7 of U.S. women age 65 and older were working in 2013.

According to a recent report from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 62 percent of older Americans say their main reason for working is the income or the health benefits. More than one-third say they're working for enjoyment and to stay involved.

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.