Active Life Expectancy In The Older US Population, 1982-2011: Differences Between Blacks And Whites Persisted

Understanding long-range trends in longevity and disability is useful for projecting the likely impact of the baby-boom generation on long-term care utilization and spending. We examine changes in active life expectancy in the United States from 1982 to 2011 for white and black adults ages sixty-five and older. For whites, longevity increased, disability was postponed to older ages, the locus of care shifted from nursing facilities to community settings, and the proportion of life at older ages spent without disability increased. In contrast, for blacks, longevity increases were accompanied by smaller postponements in disability, and the percentage of remaining life spent active remained stable and well below that of whites. Older black women were especially disadvantaged in 2011 in terms of the proportion of years expected to be lived without disability. Public health measures directed at older black adults—particularly women—are needed to offset impending pressures on the long-term care delivery system as the result of population aging.