Census bureau: More seniors seek non-institutional care

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The independent living and associated living sectors have continued to siphon would-be residents from nursing facilities, new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau confirm. The percentage of U.S. seniors living in nursing homes dropped nearly 10% in just six years, the agency said.

About 7.4% of Americans 75 or older resided in a skilled nursing facility last year, down from 8.1% in 2000 and 10.2% in 1990, figures show. The bureau said Thursday's release of data was the first deep scrutiny it had performed on the nursing home population since the 1980 census.

Seniors' overall improved health also was credited with the lower percentages of seniors in nursing homes.

Experts said that cultural biases are still likely responsible for gross disparities revealed in the national average percentage of whites in nursing homes, compared with those for blacks and Hispanics. Whites, who have been less inclined to keep elderly family members in their families' own households, were nearly 84% of the nursing home population, compared with just 75.5% of the overall population.

More than 69% nursing home residents were women, and almost three-quarters were 75 years or older, according to the Census Bureau.