The Aging Population

Between 1980 and 2000, the older adult population grew from 25 million to 35 million and it is expected to comprise an even larger proportion of the population in the future (Smith et al., 2009). Projections show that by 2030, nearly one in five U.S. residents will be age 65 and older. By 2050, the older adult population is expected to reach 88.5 million, more than double that in 2010 (Vincent and Velkoff, 2010). The baby boomer generation, the first of whom turned 65 in 2011, is largely responsible for the projected population increase. As the baby boomer generation ages, the older adult population over 85 years will rapidly increase: in 2010, around 14 percent of older adults were 85 years of age and older; by 2050, that proportion is expected to grow to more than 21 percent (see Figure 2-1) (Vincent and Velkoff, 2010). Thus, not only is the U.S. population getting older, the older adult population is getting older.

Increasing Diversity of the Population

Growing racial and ethnic diversity in the United States are important demographic trends influencing the delivery of high-quality cancer care. The two major factors contributing to this increasing diversity include (1) immigration and (2) differences in fertility and mortality rates (Shrestha and Heisler, 2011). From 1980 to 2000, racial and ethnic minorities (i.e., non-White) grew from 46 million to 83 million and are expected to expand


FIGURE 2-1 Distribution of the projected older population by age in the United States, 2010 to 2050.

NOTE: Vertical line indicates the year that each age group is the largest proportion of the older population. Data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 National Population Projections.

SOURCE: Vincent and Velkoff, 2010.

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