The oldest man in the United States died this past weekend at the age of 112 years and 204 days. George Francis was residing at a nursing home in Sacramento, CA at the time and he is survived by 18 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and 16 great-great grandchildren. He lived through three centuries as he was born in 1896. Mr. Francis was not the oldest person in the world, nor was he the oldest person in the United States. Those distinctions belong to a 115 year old woman living in Portugal and a 114 year old woman living in Los Angeles.
As we come to another New Year, it is always interesting to read about Centenarians and consider the thought of living that long. But it is also important to consider the demographic and financial realities of the fact that people are living longer than ever before and life expectancies will continue to rise. In fact, average life expectancy from age 65 increased from 77.7 to 84 years for males and 79.7 to 87 years for females in the 60 year period from 1940-2000. Life expectancy going forward into 2040 should add another 3 years on average for both males and females. The age group of 85+ is the fastest growing segment, and they are experiencing the highest gains in life expectancy on a percentage basis. Further, the population of Centenarians (age 100+) more than doubled from 37,306 in 1990 to 88,289 in 2004.
Important to note with all of the life expectancy gains is that the population of 65+ living in a nursing home accounts for 1,557,800 or 4.5% of the total cohort population. Most people that move into an assisted living or nursing home are a surviving spouse, and to that end, the number of seniors surviving a deceased spouse triples when moving from the age segment 65-74 to 85+.
With people living longer than ever it is absolutely critical to be planning for the costs of senior housing and long term care. The reality is that a family could be covering those expenses for many years into the future with no way of knowing for exactly how long.
Post Script (1/3/09): on January 2nd the world’s oldest person, Maria de Jesus of Portugal, died. Gertrude Baines, age 114 and currently living in a nursing home in California, is now the oldest living person in the world. To read about these Centenarians, click here.