Data Mining Exercises

A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE GROWTH OF ELDERLY POPULATIONS

As you have learned in this chapter, the population of the United States is aging. This is largely the result of two long-term demographic trends: improvements in life expectancy and declines in fertility. We use the term "the graying of America" to describe what is happening. The United States. is not the only country undergoing such changes; given the link between the level of economic development and changes in the quality of life and patterns of childbearing, it should be no surprise that other industrialized nations are currently experiencing the same transformation. Furthermore, as low-income nations experience economic development over the coming decades, it is expected that their populations will also begin to age in the later part of this century. What does all this mean for individuals, for societies, and for the world as a whole? In this exercise you will be able to explore that question as you first look more closely at residential patterns of senior citizens in the United States and then compare the population patterns for nations at different stages of economic development.

Part I

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the United States continues to age, to the point that by the middle of the twenty-first century it is estimated that one in five Americans will be 65 years of age or older. Not surprisingly, our largest states are the ones with the largest number of elderly. At the same time, the states with the greatest proportion of elderly are generally different from those with the greatest number. Table 1 provides information on the top ten states in terms of the number of people aged 65 and over, and the top ten states in terms of the percentage of residents aged 65 and over in relation to the state’s population as a whole.

Table 1: States Ranked in Terms of Residents Aged 65 and Over, 2000

States with the largest number of Older Residents

States with the highest percentage of Older Residents

States with the greatest change between 1990–2000 in the population aged 65+

Top 10 States

Number of Residents 65+

Top 10 States

Percent of Residents 65+

Top 10 States

Percent Change 1990-2000

California

3,595,658

Florida

17.6

Nevada

71.5

Florida

2,807,597

Pennsylvania

15.6

Alaska

59.6

New York

2,448,352

West Virginia

15.3

Arizona

39.5

Texas

2,072,532

Iowa

14.9

New Mexico

30.1

Pennsylvania

1,919,165

North Dakota

14.7

Hawaii

28.5

Ohio

1,507,757

Rhode Island

14.5

Utah

26.9

Illinois

1,500,025

Maine

14.4

Colorado

26.3

Michigan

1,219,018

South Dakota

14.3

Delaware

26.0

New Jersey

1,113,136

Arkansas

14.0

South Carolina

22.3

North Carolina

969,048

Connecticut

13.8

Wyoming

22.2

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, States and Puerto Rico Ranked by Population 65 Years and Over: 1990 and 2000

What is interesting about this table is that the same states do not show up on all three lists. In particular, you can see that as the population aged 65 and older continues to grow, some states are experiencing a more dramatic increase in the number of older residents than others. For instance, in 2000, Nevada ranked 36th in terms of the number of residents aged 65 and older, but had experienced a 72 percent increase in the years between 1990 and 2000. Arizona, ranked 18th, saw its population of older residents increase by 40 percent during this period. Alaska, while ranked 50th in terms of the number of older residents, experienced a 60 percent increase.

Writing Assignment 1:

As you look at the numbers, do you see any patterns in terms of where people aged 65 and older are living? What are some of the challenges faced by states with large numbers of senior citizens? If your state is not one of the ones listed there, click on the link to the information source for the table and find out where your state stands in terms of the national ranking.

Writing Assignment 2:

The authors of your textbook talk about the three dimensions of aging: biological, psychological, and social. As you think about the growth of the population aged 65 and older, in what ways do you think our understanding of the aging process and the aged will change? What new social demands will be created in the years to come? In particular, how will our society respond to increased social isolation, rising health costs, and the funding of government programs like Medicare and Social Security?

Part II

Now let’s look at what has been happening in other nations around the globe. Pick five other High-Income Nations, five Middle-Income Nations and five Low-Income Nations. (If you are not sure of the status of different countries, refer back to the discussion of global inequalities in Chapter 9.)

  1. 1. Go to the United Nations World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision Population Database. For each high-income country you’ve chosen, highlight its name from the list; you can select all five at once by locating the selected country on the list and then holding down the "ctrl" button (or "command" button for Macs) as you click on the country’s name with your mouse.
  2. 2. Next, select "Medium variant" among the options available. If you want to read more about the different levels of variants used in deriving the statistics, you can click on "Assumptions."
  3. 3. Select "2000" for the Start Year and "2050" for the End Year and then click "Display."

For each of the high-income countries you selected record the information on the projections of the growth of the population aged 65 and older, the median age, the Total Fertility Rate, and life expectancy at birth (See Table 2). Once you have finished, you will have to go back and follow the same steps in order to get information for the five Middle-Income Nations and then the five Low-Income Nations you’ve chosen.

Table 2: Selected Population Characteristics of Nations According to their National Income Level

% of Population

Aged 65+

Median Age

Total Fertility Rate

Life Expectancy at birth

(both sexes combined)

2000

2050

2000

2050

2000-2005

2045-2050

2000-2005

2045-2050

U.S.A.

12.4

21.2

35.3

40.0

2.04

2.09

77.2

83.0

H-I Nation 1:

H-I Nation 2:

H-I Nation 3:

H-I Nation 4:

H-I Nation 5:

M-I Nation 1:

M-I Nation 2:

M-I Nation 3:

M-I Nation 4:

M-I Nation 5:

L-I Nation 1:

L-I Nation 2:

L-I Nation 3:

L-I Nation 4:

L-I Nation 5:

Writing Assignment 3:

Once you have finished, look at what you’ve recorded. Is the percentage of the population aged 65 and older increasing in all of the nations you looked at? Where are the greatest increases? Where are the smallest ones? How are these changes related to changes in life expectancy and fertility? What do these changes mean in terms of the quality of life for individuals and for society? What differences are there between nations at different levels of economic development?

One could argue that one of the reasons age was revered in traditional societies was because so few people reached old age. As the percentage of older people increases, do you think that cultural views about aging and the aged population will change?

Part III

Writing Assignment 4/ Essay:

What are your own experiences with the elderly? Are your grandparents still living? Are they leading active lives? What do you hope your own life will be like when you have reached old age? Write a short reflection piece in which you discuss what you see as our society’s changing views on aging. Also, consider the ways in which globalization may contribute to a diffusion of attitudes about and policies towards the aged in different societies.

This page is printer-friendly: