10 Interesting Facts About Senior Citizens

What do you really know about the elderly? How would you describe them as a group? What about as individuals?

I asked several random people who were not in direct contact with a senior citizen on a daily basis to answer those questions. Here are few of the responses that I received:

  • The elderly are frail. 
  • The elderly seem lonely. 
  • Older people are sad. 
  • Older people live in the past.
  • Elderly people have it easy because they get stuff for free. 
  • Older people don't like younger people. 
  • Elderly people don't have fun anymore.
  • They are sick. 

Those opinions paint a rather bleak picture of aging. Well, I'm not here to claim that any of those observations are myths, because sometimes they are true. Instead, I am going to give you 10 facts about senior citizens that even caregivers might not know.

1. Senior Citizens are Still Active in the Workforce

There are currently over 5 million senior citizens who are active in the work force. That means that 5 million older people are still sharing their skills and expertise to help make the world and their industry a better place.

2. Senior Citizens Are More Likely to Vote

Senior citizens make up the majority of registered voters. That means that they are also good citizens with a strong sense of civic pride and commitment to their country. 

According to US News: 

  •  61 percent of citizens age 65 and older voted in the November 2010 election
  • 54 percent) of those ages 55 to 64 also cast a ballot. 
  •  37 percent of 25- to 44-year-olds voted 
  •  Only 21% of voters ages 18 to 25 voted

This makes sense. The older the voter, the more politics and social issues they have witnessed, along with what does and does not work for them. They may also may be more aware of their rights and how those rights were earned. An elderly woman I once knew loved to tell her favorite story:

"On the day I was born, my mother went into labor while waiting at the polls, as soon as women were granted the right to vote. She stayed right where she was until she could take her turn. Then I was born about an hour later. In honor of my mother, who fought hard for her right to have an opinion, I never miss an election. Its my birthright." 

3. Senior Citizens Have a Day of Recognition

May is the designated month for appreciating and recognizing senior citizens. August 21st, however, is official Senior Citizens Day. 

Its purpose is to bring awareness about social and economic issues regarding the well-being of seniors, as well as to honor them for their contributions. 

4. Senior Citizens are More Likely to Commit Suicide

The media may lead us to believe that younger people are more inclined to take their own lives. However, the truth is that  people 65 and older are more likely to commit suicide than any other age group. 

Men are more likely to commit suicide than women. According to the CDC, the suicide probability for women levels off in the 60's, but continues to climb for men. Contributing factors can include depression (which is often missed, ignored or misdiagnosed in the elderly), loneliness, isolation, physical limitations (feelings of low self-worth), poverty, illness, and being recently divorced or widowed.

The likelihood of suicide goes up in individuals with access to hand guns. Lethal weapons, but especially guns, are the main method for suicide among the elderly. 

Montana has the highest suicide rate among seniors.

5. Poverty Is Still a Serious Issue for Senior Citizens

 Over 16% of seniors live in poverty. 

"... 9.4 percent of seniors had incomes in 2006 below the poverty threshold of $9,669 for an individual, and $12,186 for a couple, nearly a quarter of older Americans (22.4 percent) had family incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line." --Center for American Progress

This is not always due to mismanagement of funds. As the economy fluctuates, seniors often find that the value of their assets and savings may not match or exceed the rising cost of health care, medications, assisted living and other needs of aging.

6. Senior Citizens Still Have Sex 

At least 73% of all senior citizens are still sexually active. And not always with their spouses and partners. The elderly are also just as likely to engage in experimental sexual practices as any other age group. 

The numbers don't change much over the age groups either. Men and women in their 60's, 70's and beyond reported to be just as satisfied and sometimes more satisfied than when they were younger. 

Elders who are single or widowed are highly likely to seek out one or more sexual partners. Rather than being appalled at the sexual preferences and practices of the aging population, more education and health screenings need to be available, since those over 60 are the least willing to implement safe-sex practices. 

7. Senior Citizens are Tech Savvy

More than 40% of seniors have computer access and are active online. About 15 million Facebook users are 65 and older. 

Along with social media sites where they can connect with friends and family, older computer users play online games, read news sites, sign up for dating sites, and contribute to sites related to their interests. They are bloggers, survey takers, shoppers, reviewers, photographers, and more. 

8. Seniors Citizens Still Drive, Even When They Shouldn't

About 80% of seniors own a car and drive frequently. Whereas only 1% of senior deaths is due to a motor vehicle accident, they are more likely to have crashes at intersections than other age groups. Elderly men have 3 times higher death rate from car accidents than women. 

Although there are many jokes about the elderly driving too slowly, they are just as likely to get pulled over for speeding. My elderly cousin has quite a reputation in her community for earning speeding tickets because of her impatience to reach her destinations. 

A few years ago, she had a humbling moment when she was pulled over for doing 75 mph through a 25 mph school zone. (In a state with a 55 mph hour maximum speed limit at anytime!) While the officer was firmly but politely lecturing her in front of her the elderly pals she was chauffeuring, her own children drove by. They stopped and took her picture for the family album. 

9. Senior Citizens Enjoy Hobbies that are Creative or Useful

The majority of senior citizens, whether working or retired, enjoy hobbies and social activities. Crafting, woodworking, dancing, exercise, pets, travel, charity work and church are some of the preferred activities. 

10. Senior Citizens are Individuals

 You can group them together, you can study them statistically and you can stare at infographics for days. But it still comes down to individuality.

Seniors come from all classes, all ethnicities and all educational backgrounds. They run marathons, go to college, work at jobs, take dance classes, use online dating sites, play games on Facebook. Until you reach out and get to know a senior, you will never know for sure what makes them tick.