ATLANTA -- America's population of senior citizens is expected to double by 2030 to 71 million, and the nation needs to begin preparing for the demands they are going to put on the health care system, the government said Thursday.
Between 2000 and 2030, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase from 35 million to 71 million, or from 12.4 percent to nearly 20 percent of the population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The increase reflects both the aging of the baby boom generation and major improvements in life expectancy.
"Increased life expectancy reflects ... the success of public health interventions," the CDC said.
The chronic diseases associated with aging will mean increased demands on the nation's medical and social systems.
Health officials should expand their focus from infectious diseases and maternal and child health to promoting health in older adults, preventing disabilities and maintaining quality of life, the CDC said.
"We think it's time for public health to really pay attention to this," said Dr. Suzanne Smith, chief of the CDC's health care and aging studies branch. "We can extend the period of higher functioning, which means people can stay in their homes longer, can reduce the burden on long-term care givers and people can have a happy life."
Worldwide, the number of senior citizens is projected to more than double by 2030, from 420 million to 973 million.