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4 reasons to be optimistic

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Monday, August 20, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

There are plenty of reasons to think positively about retirement and retirement planning, according to a new report from the National Institutes of Health.

For one thing, there is an increasing number of older Americans. And wherever we go, we go in a crowd and bring with us political and financial clout.

In 2010, there were 40 million people ages 65 and older, and they accounted for 13 percent of the total population in the U.S. By 2030, there will be 72 million people ages 65 and older, and they will represent a whopping 20 percent of the population, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

Here are four trends about aging identified by the NIH, suggesting the chances we boomers will go quietly into that good night appear slim.

We may be fatter, but overall we're healthy. Along with other age groups, we're getting fatter. In 2010, 38 percent of people ages 65 and older were obese, compared with 22 percent from 1988 to 1994. The better news is more than 76 percent of people 65 and older reported their health as good to excellent. And women, at least, aren't getting any fatter, with no statistically significant weight gain since 1999.

More of us are working. In 2011, 27 percent of women and 37 percent of men ages 65 to 69 were on the job. In 1984 -- a retirement zenith -- only 17 percent of women and  24 percent of men ages 65 to 69 worked for pay.

We're richer. Between 1974 and 2010, there was an increase in the number of people with high incomes from 18 percent to 31 percent, while the proportion of older people with low incomes declined from 35 percent to 26 percent, and the number of people living below the poverty line fell from 15 percent to 9 percent.

We're living longer. Life expectancies at ages 65 and age 85 have increased. People who survive to age 65 can expect to live an average of 19.2 more years, nearly five years longer than people who were age 65 in 1960. In 2009, the life expectancy of people who survived to age 85 was seven years for women and 5.9 years for men.

L'chaim!

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