More and more Americans living past 90

senior citizens, generic
Residents of Kattay House, a senior living center
CBS News

America is getting older.

The Census Bureau reported Thursday that there are now nearly 2 million people in this country in their 90s -- three times as many as there were back in 1980. The number is projected to reach 9 million by 2050.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports that there are many implications for our aging population.

Sidney Kronish, 99, may move a little slowly these days, but this retired economics professor still has a lot to say.

"I still read. I study. I write. I talk, and people sometimes listen," Kronish said.

Better medical care accounts for much of the boom in those living over 90. Dr. Claudia Kawas has been studying this age group.

"Much of that extension has come at a cost. We've extended the quantity of life, but now we need to extend the quality of life," Kawas said.

Most of those who live into their nineties outlive their resources, with average income under $15,000 annually.

One fear in the coming decades is soaring medical costs. Currently, Alzheimer's affects 5.4 million people. By 2050, that may grow to 16 million. The cost will go from $183 billion in treatment to $1.1 trillion.

Arlene Richmond runs Kattay House, a senior living center. She says the 90-and-overs do best when they're fully engaged.

"Being part of a community changes their world. They have people who share their passions. They have a reason to get up in the morning. They continue to be the movers and shakers that they were," Richmond said.

Sidney Kronish has his own secret to a longer life: Family.

"I was born into a wonderful family. And my wife was special. As she put it, I chased her until she caught me," Kronish said.

Women make up three-quarters of this elderly population.

Currently, our healthcare system absolutely cannot cope with this population. Economists simply do not know where this extra money for handling the aging population will come from.

  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook