Posted by: Josh Lehner | December 18, 2019

Aging Oregon Part 2: Improving Health

Welcome back to the occasional series where our office will explore some of the demographic, economic, and societal impacts of an aging population. Previously we looked at overall demographic trends, while today we dig into our generally improving health. Future posts will examine the impacts on income, tax revenue, housing markets, retirement homes, their workforce needs, and the like. As always email me with your thoughts on the topic and other aspects to explore further.

Father Time is undefeated. At some point we all pass from this life to more life. And we know statistically speaking the probability increases as we age. While this can be uncomfortable to talk about — my family just celebrated my grandma’s 95th birthday! — it will become increasingly common in the decades ahead due to our demographics.

However, the good news is that our health overall has improved. All cause mortality is down 40-50% for Oregonians in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. But we have seen less improvements among our oldest cohorts. As the saying goes, 70 really is the new 50, but 85 is still 85.

Importantly, it’s also about the quality of the life we live and here we have more good news. The share of the population with a self-reported disability is on the decline based on available Census data. So not only are more of us living longer*, we’re generally in better health while we’re alive. These decreases in self-reported disabilities are seen across the various types, including self-care difficulty.

And it’s here, when discussing disabilities and self-care difficulty, where we really get to the intersection of the impact of an aging population and the economy overall. Our previous research showed that downsizing isn’t really a thing. People clearly prefer to age in place, up until they pass onto more life or move into some sort of retirement home. As an example, my grandma lived in her house until she was 90 before she moved into an assisted living facility closer to my aunt and cousins. As the chart below shows, individuals with a disability are significantly more likely to live in group quarters than in a traditional housing unit. Groups quarters are dormitories, prisons, nursing homes and the like. As one ages, of course, nursing homes are the predominant type of group quarters we live in.

Overall as our society has an increasing number of friends, relatives, and neighbors entering into similar points in their lives in the decades ahead, these trends can have big impacts on the housing market, nursing homes and the workforce needed to take care all of us. I haven’t finished crunching all the numbers but the next couple of posts in the series will focus on these topics. They may not be fully ready until the New Year. But I hope to be able to help put these impacts in perspective and to figure out how big of a deal they are, economically-speaking.

* U.S. life expectancy has increased considerably over time, but it has flattened out in the past decade and even declined a bit in recent years. Some of that is due to things like the Deaths of Despair pushing back on improving health and medical advancements. You can also see the plateauing of mortality among the 55-64 year old demographic in the chart above. So while health has improved and life expectancy risen, it’s not all rosy.


  1. […] Source: Aging Oregon Part 2: Improving Health | Oregon Office of Economic Analysis […]

  2. […] impacts of an aging population. Previously we looked at overall demographic trends, and the generally improving health of retirees. Future posts are set to examine the impacts on housing markets, retirement homes, and […]

  3. […] impacts of an aging population. Previously we looked at overall demographic trends, and the generally improving health of retirees. Future posts are set to examine the impacts on housing markets, retirement homes, and […]

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