Federal forum details Americans aging: healthier, wealthier but gaps remain

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Most of the nearly 36 million Americans age 65 and over - who now constitute more than 12% of the total population -- reported that they were healthier, wealthier and better educated than older people in the past. But some groups still experience disproportionate disadvantages, according to a new analysis.

Those older Americans with limited education, women and minorities reported more disadvantages, according to the findings released on Thursday in "Older Americans 2004: Key Indicators of Well-Being," the second comprehensive analysis of its type by the Federal interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.

The forum reports that Americans are living longer than ever: by 2001, additional life expectancy at age 65 had increased to more than 19 years for women and about 16 years for men. At age 85, it was seven more years for women and six years for men. However, the elderly are experiencing more obesity than generations past, the report found.

Medicare pays for 54% of the overall healthcare costs of enrollees 65 and over, who pay 21% of their healthcare costs out-of-pocket. Medicaid, meanwhile, covers 10% of the costs, and other payers such as private insurers cover another 15%, according to the report.