A Profile of Illinois' Elderly
The 1990 census counted 41.9 million persons over the age of sixty in the United States. In Illinois, the elderly
population grew to 1,925,649. The number of elderly in Illinois now ranks sixth among the states behind California,
New York, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
The population of Illinois has
changed considerably over the past
twenty years. Where once we considered ourselves a society of youth,
we are now becoming a society of
middle and old age. The population
sixty (60) and older grew by 23% in
the last twenty years and will grow
another 41 % by the year 2020. The
elderly now make up 17% of Illinois'
population, which means that almost
one in six Illinoisans is 60 or older.
In contrast, the population under age
sixty actually decreased during the
same twenty-year period. For example, there are 21% fewer children
under the age of fourteen (14) in Illinois than in 1970.
There are many more older persons
living many more years in the state.
According to the U.S. Bureau of the
Census, the improved chance of survival to the oldest ages
is the most important factor in the growth of the elderly
population. Since 1970 the increase in life expectancy has
been due to declines in mortality among the middle-aged
and elderly populations. In 1900, life expectancy at birth
was about 47 years. The life expectancy at birth in 1989
was 75 years of age. A person who lives to the age of 65
can expect to live another 16.9 years, to the age of 82. The
median age in Illinois is now 31.5 compared to 29.9 in
1980 and 28.6 in 1970. Certainly, another key factor affecting the future growth of the elderly population is the
aging of the "baby boom" generation. This generation will
begin turning age sixty in the year 2010.
During the 1980s, the growth in the elderly population
within the state varied widely. The areas of the state where
the elderly population saw the most growth are in suburban Cook County and the surrounding collar counties. For
Growth In Illinois' Population
1970 to 2020
Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1970-1990. Illinois Bureau of the Budget, 1995-2020.
Illinois' Oldest Old
• The "old-old" population increased by 46% over the last
• The population over the age of 85 is the fastest growing segment in society, expected to increase 84% by the year 2020,1
• One in four older persons over the age of 75 has an income
below the poverty threshold. 31 % of minority older persons
over age 75 are below poverty.
• The "old-old" population have more difficulty performing
daily tasks than the "young-old" and utilize services at a
much higher rate.
• The rapid growth of the "oldest-old" will place increased
demands on the system of services and increased responsibilities on family caregivers for longer periods of time.
18 / Illinois Parks & Recreation • November/December 1994
instance, DuPage County's elderly population increased to 96,080, a 41% increase, and Lake County's 60+ population grew
by 32%. Other areas of the state have seen declines in the number of older persons residing in their communities. The city of
Chicago's older population is 8% of 38,184, smaller than in 1980. Many rural areas of the state are also experiencing declines
in their older population. Brown and Pulaski Counties have 16% fewer older persons in their counties than they did in 1980.
Older Women and Older Men
• Elderly women outnumber elderly men 3 to 2 and, at age 85,
there are three women to every older man.
• More elderly men are married and more elderly women have
• Three out of four older persons living alone in Illinois are
• Older women are twice as likely as older men to live in
nursing homes, boarding homes, or other group settings.
• About 80% of those caring for frail older persons — either
as family members, volunteers, or professionals — are
• The median income of older women is 56% the median income of older men.
• More older women than men live at or near the poverty level,
and minority older women have the highest poverty rates.
Older Persons Who Live Alone
• One in four older persons live alone and are among the most
vulnerable and impoverished groups in Illinois.
• The number of minority elderly who live alone will increase
dramatically in the next 30 years.
• Elderly who live alone have lower incomes than older persons living
with others and are more likely to be poor or near poor, particularly if they are women.
• If assistance is needed, older persons who live alone must
rely almost entirely on formal support through community
• The proportion of persons receiving Aging Network services
is significantly higher for older persons living alone than
Urban Elderly and Rural Elderly
• Illinois is a geographically diverse state. Of the 102 counties in the state, 28 counties are urban and 74 are rural.
• The proportion of the population that is elderly is much higher
in rural areas than in urban areas.
• The vast majority of minority elderly live in urban settings,
particularly in the city of Chicago, and poverty levels of older persons are highest in rural areas of the state.
• The low revenue generating potential of rural areas, coupled
with the high proportion of elderly in rural areas, places a
greater dependence on Aging Network services than in other
areas of the state.
Health and Functional Status
• The leading causes of death among persons over the age of
65 are heart disease, cancer and stroke.
• Close to half of the elderly suffer from arthritis, more than
one in three have hypertension, and almost 30% are hearing
impaired or suffer from heart disease.
• Approximately one in ten elderly are suffering from
Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder.
• Advancing age, race and poverty status are linked to greater
functional limitations of the elderly.
Source: Profile of Illinois' Elderly. 1994. The Illinois Department on Aging. •
Illinois Parks & Recreation • November/December 1994 • 19