How Many Senior Citizens Live in Nursing Homes?

In a comprehensive analysis of senior citizens‘ living arrangements, particularly focusing on nursing homes, it’s crucial to integrate both general statistics about where seniors live and specific demographics of those residing in nursing homes.

The insights provided by Wellman’s presentation, combined with the detailed study by Korbin Liu and Yuko Palesch, offer a holistic view of this landscape.

Table of Contents

The Changing Demographics of the Aging Population

Population Aged 65 and Older in the United States

The United States is experiencing significant growth in its senior population, which includes people aged 65 and older. As of today, there are approximately 39.5 million people over the age of 65, with projections indicating a dramatic increase in this number over the next 20 years due to the aging of the baby boomer generation. By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be around 19 million people aged 85 and older.

Trends in Senior Living Arrangements

Despite the growing number of seniors, the trend has been a decrease in institutionalization, such as living in nursing homes. Most Americans aged 65 and older live in community settings rather than nursing homes or other institutional environments. This shift is partly due to policy and partly due to changes in the health and capabilities of older adults.

Health and Socioeconomic Factors Among Seniors

Health Statistics Among Senior Citizens

The health of the aging population shows a mix of chronic conditions and increased longevity. Conditions like hypertension and arthritis are common, and there’s a high prevalence of issues like overweight and obesity. However, the percentage of non-disabled seniors has been rising, indicating better overall health among the older population. This improvement is reflected in the decreasing percentage of seniors living in nursing homes, which is now less than 5%.

Living Arrangements and Food Insecurity

Food Insecurity and Nutrition Among Seniors

A notable portion of the senior population, about 4.5%, lives in nursing homes, while a smaller segment, around 2%, resides in assisted living facilities. The majority, however, live independently in the community. This independent living is supported by policies aimed at keeping seniors out of institutional settings.

Despite living independently, many seniors face challenges such as food insecurity. Data shows a decrease in food spending among older adults, raising concerns about adequate nutrition and health. There’s also a growing concern about food insecurity among seniors living alone, with indications that hunger and inadequate food intake are significant issues.


The data clearly indicates that while the number of senior citizens in the United States is growing rapidly, the proportion living in nursing homes is relatively small and decreasing. This shift reflects broader trends in health, longevity, and policy, emphasizing the importance of community living and independent lifestyles for the elderly. However, this trend also brings to light challenges related to nutrition and food security, underscoring the need for effective programs and policies to support the nutritional needs and overall well-being of seniors living outside of institutional settings.

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