According to a 2016 Pew Social Trends study, nearly half — 45 percent — of adults ages 75 and older say their life has turned out better than they expected, while just 5 percent say it has turned out worse (the remainder say things have turned out the way they expected or have no opinion). All other age groups also tilt positive, but considerably less so, when asked to assess their lives so far against their own expectations.

When asked about a wide range of potential benefits of old age, seven-in-ten respondents ages 65 and older say they are enjoying more time with their family. About two-thirds cite more time for hobbies, more financial security and not having to work; and roughly six-in-ten say they get more respect and feel less stress than when they were younger.

Older adults account for record shares of the populations of the United States and most developed countries. Some 39 million Americans, or 13 percent of the U.S. population, are 65 and older–up from 4 percent in 1900.

The century-long expansion in the share of the world’s population that is 65 and older is the product of dramatic advances in medical science and public health as well as steep declines in fertility rates. In this country, the increase has leveled off since 1990, but it will start rising again when the first wave of the nation’s 76 million baby boomers turned 65 in 2011.

By 2050, according to Pew Research projections, about one-in-five Americans will be over age 65, and about 5 percent will be ages 85 and older, up from 2 percent now. These ratios will put the U.S. at mid-century roughly where Japan, Italy and Germany–the three “oldest” large countries in the world–are today.

When Does Old Age Begin? According to respondents of the same Pew study, 68. That’s the average of all answers from the 2,969 survey respondents. Women, on average, say a person becomes old at age 70. Men, on average, put the number at 66. Among respondents ages 65-74, 80 percent reported feeling younger than their years.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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