Senior Power: Profiling Older Americans

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday May 17, 2011 - 09:17:00 PM

The great profile… AProfile of Older Americans: 2010 is now available online. This annual summary of the latest statistics on the older population covers 15 topical areas including population, income and poverty, living arrangements, education, and health. 

Older population is defined as persons 65 years or older (65+). They numbered 39.6 million in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available. More than one in every 8 Americans was a senior citizen, representing 12.9 percent of the population.  

Life expectancy in the United States has reached an all-time high, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health statistics that show Americans living longerare all over the Internet. Meanwhile, 32 percent of San Francisco senior citizens are living below poverty level in their own homes. 

The older population itself is increasingly older. In 2008, the 65-74 age group was 9.5 times larger than in 1900. In contrast, the 75-84 group was 17 times larger, and the 85+ group (5.6 million persons) was 46 times larger. 

In 2009, women’s life expectancy was 80.6 years; men’s was 75.7 years. There were 22.7 million older women and 16.8 million older men, a ratio of 135 women/100 men. The female-to-male sex ratio increases with age, to a high of 216 for persons age 85 and over. For some reason, these data remind me of the old man who recently referred to this Senior Power column as a “gossip column.” 

A child born in 2007 could expect to live 77.9 years, about 30 years longer than one born in 1900. Much of this increase occurred because of reduced death rates for children and young adults. However, the period of 1990-2007 has also seen reduced death rates for the population aged 65-84, especially for men. 

There were 64,024 persons aged 100 or more in 2009, a 72% increase from the 1990 figure of 37,306. 

The western U.S. region — which includes states with sizable Hispanic populations such as California — had the nation’s lowest median age last year at roughly 35.1, compared with 39 in the Northeast and 37.5 in the Midwest. Leonard Steinhorn, an American University professor and author of “The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy,” sees the potential for sharpened generational politics in aging parts of the country such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, where people 45+ are the voting majority. Citing the high representation of older voters in 2010 who disproportionately voted Republican amid health overhaul debate, he added, “If seniors vote more in elections and throw some people out, politicians may respond more to the concerns of seniors and take for granted youths.” [Washington Post, May 12, 2011 “Census: Growing age gap among US regions, sharpening divides over Medicare and immigration”] 


Latinos are the country’s fastest-growing and second-largest population group, representing 16% of the population, or about 1 in every 6 people, according to new Census data. By 2050, about 1 in 3 people will be Latino. Even more impressive, the 65+ Latino population will increase by 224% (compared to a 65% Caucasian increase), creating significant challenges for programs and policies designed to support seniors. 

There has been little research about the societal implications of an aging Latino population for the United States. In March, Hispanics in Philanthropy, a network of foundations committed to increasing philanthropic resources for social change in Latino communities, releasedLatino Age Wave, a new study that analyzes trends related to this population, the needs of community-based organizations serving Latino older adults, and strategies to address gaps in policies and services. 

Older workers represented 19% of the United States 2009 workforce. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s new edition of Pensions at a Glance provides worldwide pension data and is available online and for sale. Many countries have increased pension ages in the face of population aging and longer lives. Improvements to the incentives to work rather than retire are also a common part of recent pension-reform packages. But ensuring that there are sufficient jobs for older workers remains a challenge. This compilation also reveals that the United States continues to rank very low among OECD countries in its net replacement rate (NRR) from public pensions: 50.0% for the average earner, compared with 68.8% for OECD countries. Only 6 of thirty-four OECD countries had lower NRRs: Mexico, Ireland, Japan, Great Britain, New Zealand and Korea. 

With divorce rates higher than in previous generations, many baby boomers are likely to retire as singles. Census figures show that more than a third of all Americans over the age of forty-five are single -- approximately 39.5 million people. Retirement life costs a single person about 75 percent of what a couple would pay for the same lifestyle, according to the American Academy of Actuaries. On a per-person basis, that means singles need forty percent more than do spouses. 

Most senior citizens are women; most low-income senior citizens are women. Older women rely more on income from Social Security than do older men. Social Security reduces poverty rates for 65+ minority women -- from 44 to 14 percent for older African-American women, from 43 to 14 percent for older Hispanic women, and from 32 to 11 percent for older Asian women. 

Eighty-four percent of California residents 65+ receive Social Security benefits; about 383,600 widowed spouses receive Social Security survivor’s benefits. The average Social Security benefit for women age 65+ is about $12,000 per year, compared to about $15,500 for men 65+. Median income for women 65+ living alone is $18,600 per year, and Social Security represents 64 percent of that amount. Median income for comparable men is $29,200, with Social Security representing 45 percent of that amount. 



Sixty-two year old Hiroaki Koide is a courageous Japanese antinuclear activist who has been a nuclear reactor specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University since 1974. Early on, he became aware of the dangers inherent in nuclear power. When he entered the Nuclear Engineering Department of Tohoku University in 1968, like most Japanese people at the time, Koide believed that nuclear power was a dream resource for the future. He soon learned, however, that nuclear power could be extremely unsafe, and that construction of nuclear power plants was based on exploitation of the weaker strata of Japanese society. Since this realization, he has continuously appealed for abolition of nuclear power generation. For forty years, he has sacrificed possibilities for promotions and research funding in behalf of this cause, frequently participating in debates opposing mainstream government- and industry-sponsored scholars who regard him with condescension. Koide is a member of the nuclear researcher group referred to as The Kumatori 6. (Kumatori is the town in which the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute is located.) Videos in Japanese are at . Look for and click on English translation. Koide begins to speak about 7 and a half minutes into the first video. 


Thanks to the Senior Services Coalition of Alameda County, I have confirmed that there is a vacancy on the AlamedaCountyCommission on Aging. This seat is appointed by the Mayors Conference and is a "north county" seat. Interested persons should contact their own mayor. 


Medicare covers an initial Welcome to Medicare physical examination. The free annual exam thereafter is called a “wellness exam,” which is not a routine checkup. Make this clear when making your appointment. 

SCR32 (Correa)’s measure would declare May 2011 and each May thereafter as Senior Volunteer Month to honor the contributions of California’s senior volunteers. California Senior Legislator Joanna Kim-Selby reports (May 11) that SCR32 is in the process of becoming a permanent Resolution as it goes back to the Senate Rules Committee. When it is cleared, she will let us know. 

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) sponsored several sessions at the 2011 Aging in America conference in San Francisco in March. The topics were: Center for Healthy Aging; Economic Security Initiative; National Institute of Senior Centers; Public Policy & Advocacy; and Strengthening Community Organizations. It is possible to download their presentations and handouts. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR, and call ahead to confirm date, time, place. 


Now until Sunday, May 29 Photo show at Farley’s, 1195 65 St., Emeryville (San Pablo and 65 St.). The art will be on display until Sunday, May 29, during cafe business hours: Monday - Friday: 7:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.; Saturday: 8 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. MY GEMS/MY TREASURES is a showcase of work by local artists working in the medium of digital photography. All of these artists are connected by the North Oakland Senior Center and a free digital photography and image manipulation course recently offered at the Center. Information: (510) 597-5085. 

Wednesday, May 18, 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging, South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. Be sure to check Community Calendar and or (510) 981-5178 to confirm. 

Wednesday, May 189 A.M., 10-11:30 A.M. Walk With Us!Alameda and Mastick Senior Center have organized a special walk to show our support and commitment to healthy aging in honor of “Older Americans Month” 1.5 or 2 mile walk through various Alameda neighborhoods, including a visit to Bay/Eagle Community Garden and Washington Park. Alameda Hospital representatives will be onsite to provide Blood Pressure Testing and Diabetes Screening, pre-registration required. Visit the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Saturday, May 21, 11 AM Central Berkeley Public Library. Free. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Information: (510)981-6100. 

Wednesday, May 25 2 P.M. Alameda Free Library (1550 Oak Street—corner of Lincoln). 90-minute presentation entitled “Laughing for the Health of It.” Free. No reservations required. Refreshments. 

Thursday, May 26 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, a division of the Alameda Recreation and Park Department, at 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Music Appreciation Class. Join volunteer William Sturm for "The Nocturne: From Chopin to Faure". Mr. Sturm will discuss and play various pieces by Field, Chopin, and Faure. Preregister in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Thursday, May 26, 1:00 - 3:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Celebrate Spring With Dancing and Fun! Hawaiian Fling dance in the Mastick Social Hall. $2 per person (volunteers are free). Mastick’s own Wahine U’I Dance Group, David Henry, D.J., Norma Nocera, line dance instructor. (510) 747-7510 

Thursday, May 26,6 P.M. West Berkeley Pubic Library. Free. Lawyers in the Library. Free. Information: (510)981-6100. 

Tuesday, May 31 11:30 A.M. Fall Prevention. Free.Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. Consult Join the JCC East Bay for a discussion and tips on reducing your chance of falling. More than one-third of adults age 65 and older will fall at least once a year! Falls are a leading cause of injury and even death in older adults, but they can be avoided. Facilitated by Andrew Teran of Vital Link. 

Wednesday, June 1 Noon. Playreaders, Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. Free. Also June 8, 15, 22 and 28. (510)981-6160. 

Wednesday, June 1 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 

AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course specifically designed for motorists who are 50+. To qualify, you 

must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration is a must. There is a $12 per person fee for AARP members (AARP membership number required) and $14 per person fee for 

non-AARP members. The registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. (510) 747-7510 

Thursday, June 2 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free, Drop-In Classes - Relaxed Atmosphere - Self-Paced. Learn how to use the mouse, use the keyboard, set up e-mail and search the Internet. Also June 9, 16, 23, 30. 510-981-6148. 

Friday, June 3, 12:30 p.m. Downtown Oakland Senior Center, 2000 Grand Avenue. Movie-Lecture Series continues with Sanity and Secrets in Suddenly, Last Summer. Center Director Jennifer D. King will present this controversial 1959 classic and lead a discussion of the themes explored in this movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn. Free but you must RSVP by calling (510) 238-3284 or signing up at the Reception Desk. Refreshments. 

Saturday, June 4. Giant community flea market to raise funds for senior programs. 

NorthOakland Senior Center, 5714 MLK, Oakland. For information: (510) 597-5085. 

Monday, June 6 6-6:50 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free drop-in computer class for beginners. (510) 981-6148. Also June 13, 20, 27. 

Thursday, June 6 5 P.M.,6 – 7:45 P.M. Lawyers in the Library, West. West Branch Library. Free legal advice. Sign-ups begin at 5 P.M. . “Names put in random order at 6 P.M.” Also June 23. 

Thursday, June 9 5 P.M.,6 – 7:45 P.M. Lawyers in the Library, South. South Branch Library, 1901 Russell St. Free legal advice and help with questions on such problems as employment, consumer, landlord/tenant, and domestic law. Referrals to Alameda County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, or to an appropriate free or low-cost legal service provider, if further help is necessary. Wheelchair accessible. In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5 P.M. . Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M. 

Thursday, June 9 7 -8:45 P.M. Café Literario. West Branch Library, 1125 University Avenue. Part 2 of facilitated discussion in Spanish of Julio Cortazar’s Rayuela. Cortazar (1914-1984) was an Argentine poet, short story writer, and translator whose pseudonym was Julio Denis. Rayuela, es la gran novela de Julio Cortázar. El libro donde el escritor argentino supo condensar sus propias obsesiones estéticas, literarias y vitales en un mosaico casi inagotable donde toda una época se vio maravillosamente reflejada. 

Tuesday, June 14 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. VA Benefits and YOU! Michael Ennis, Alameda County Veterans Service Officer, will provide an overview of VA Benefits. To reserve a seat, sign up in the office or call 747-7506. 

Wednesday, June 15 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. 

Saturday, June 18 11 A.M. – Noon. Landlord/Tenant Counseling, Central Berkeley Public Library.
Housing Counselors from the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board offer free, one-on-one counseling sessions. (Third Saturday each month) They assist both tenants and landlords by answering questions and making referrals on housing related topics-- including security deposits, rent control, evictions, unpaid rent and other difficult issues. Contact Jacquelyn Morgan for more information at 510-981-7368 Ext 4917. 

Tuesday, June 28 3-4 P.M. Tea and Cookies at the Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (Monthly on the 4th Tuesday ) (510) 981-6100. 


Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at Please, no email attachments or phone calls.