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U.S. population is aging faster than it's growing

America is graying twice as fast as it's growing up, a University of Florida study shows.

"Increases in longevity and declines in fertility have increased the total number of elderly and the proportion of elderly in all 50 states," said Mohammed Shadidullah, assistant population program director at the university's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The total U.S. population grew by 9.8 percent from 1980 to a total of 249-million people in 1990, while the number of elderly grew by 21.6 percent during that time, Shadidullah said.

Because there are more than 31-million Americans 65 or older, concerns about care for the elderly are becoming increasingly more important, researchers said.

One of the most pressing is how senior citizens can live longer and more comfortably in their own homes instead of in hospitals or nursing homes.

Experts from across the country will consider the issue next week during the Florida National Forum on Health Care at the university.

Officials from 23 national organizations on health and aging and representatives of the 15 states with the largest numbers of elderly will attend the forum to discuss policies related to home care for the elderly.

Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles and Dr. Steven Schroeder, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a $3-billion private health research enterprise, will be among the speakers.

"The growth of the 65-age group exceeded the growth of total population in every state," Shadidullah said. In 28 states, the proportions of those 65 or older were equal to or higher than the 1990 national proportion of 12.5 percent elderly, he said.

Florida has topped the list in the proportion of people 65 or older since 1970. The four other states in the top five in 1990 were Iowa, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.